A number of Britain’s biggest supermarket chains have launched urgent investigations after it was alleged that the UK’s largest supplier of chickens has been tampering with food safety records.
An undercover investigation by the Guardian and ITV News at a factory run by 2 Sisters Food Group claimed that workers were purposely changing the dates chickens were killed to artificially extend their shelf life.
Experts say this could lead incorrect use-by dates to be printed on supermarket packaging, leaving shoppers at risk of buying out-of-date meat.
2 Sisters Food Group currently processes fresh chickens for Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Aldi, Lidl and Marks & Spencer.
According to the report, the undercover journalist - who worked at a factory in the West Midlands - also witnessed workers changing records of where the chickens had been slaughtered.
This would make the meat untraceable in the event of an outbreak of food poisoning - an action experts say is a criminal offence.
Employees were also allegedly seen placing chicken that had fallen on the floor back into the production line and mixing meat of different ages together.
The investigation claims that use-by dates printed on these mixed packets of chicken would reflect the age of the freshest - rather than the oldest - meat in the pack.
One 2 Sisters employee told reporters: ″If you follow the proper procedures you get sent home.”
Other workers alleged that the chicken that supermarkets reject is sometimes repackaged at the factory and sent out again.
The company, which was set up by Ranjit Singh Boparan in 1993, said it takes the claims “extremely seriously”.
A spokesperson told the Guardian and ITV News: “However, we have not been given the time or the detailed evidence to conduct any thorough investigations to establish the facts, which makes a fulsome and detailed response very difficult.
“What we can confirm is that hygiene and food safety will always be the number one priority within the business and they remain at its very core.
“We also successfully operate in one of the most tightly-controlled and highly regulated food sectors in the world.
“We are subject to multiple and frequent unannounced audits from the FSA, BRC, Red Tractor, independent auditors as well as our customers.
“By example, our facility in the West Midlands under investigation received nine audits (five unannounced) in the months of July and August alone.
“However, we are never complacent and remain committed to continually improving our processes and procedures. If, on presentation of further evidence, it comes to light any verifiable transgressions have been made at any of our sites, we will leave no stone unturned in investigating and remedying the situation immediately.”
A number of the UK’s biggest supermarkets have also launched investigations into the allegations.
A spokesperson for Aldi told HuffPost UK: “We require all suppliers to adhere to the highest possible food hygiene and traceability standards at all times.
“We have launched our own investigation into these allegations as a matter of urgency.”
Sainsbury’s told ITV News: “All of our suppliers are expected to meet our high standards. We are concerned by these findings and are investigating.”
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Marks & Spencer said: “We take hygiene and traceability very seriously and have extremely high production standards. We are now looking into these allegations with our supplier.”
Tesco told reporters: “We operate to the highest possible food quality and safety standards, carrying out our own regular audits at all of our suppliers to ensure these standards are maintained. As such, we take these allegations extremely seriously and will be carrying out our own rigorous investigation.”
Finally, Lidl said that it was “very disappointed” to learn about the allegations and would be urgently investigating the matter.
“Lidl UK takes the issue of food safety extremely seriously and, as such, we conduct independent audits to ensure that our high quality and safety standards are met.”