"We need to restore both food safety, animal welfare and consumer confidence"
Ranjit Singh Boparan owner of the 2 Sisters Food Group faces a parliamentary inquiry after a media investigation revealing that his chicken producing factory in West Bromwich was allegedly breaching safety regulations.
Also known as the ‘Chicken King’, Ranjit Singh Boparan, employs 23,000 staff in his business. The 2 Sisters Food Group founded in 1993, is the biggest supplier of poultry to supermarkets in the UK, processing over 6 million chickens per week.
The investigation headed by The Guardian and ITV uncovered some major safety and hygiene failures at the plant in West Bromwich.
A major issue unveiled in undercover filming was the fiddling of safety dates on chicken being processed. Workers are seen altering source and slaughter dates on the poultry at the factory.
The factory supplied chicken to huge supermarkets like Tesco, Lidl, Aldi and Marks & Spencer.
The supermarkets have immediately reacted to the exposé by the investigation and suspended supplied from the factory.
Marks & Spencer taking the matter “extremely seriously” says they have “commenced an immediate investigation into these allegations and will not be taking any more product from the West Bromwich site” until it is reviewed.
Other supermarkets are following suit and conducting their own independent investigations into the matter as well.
Footage recorded over a period of 12 days by the media investigation inside of the West Bromwich factory highlighted the following evidence:
- In August 2017, workers altered the “kill date” of chickens to one day later, thus, affecting the legality of the ‘use-by-date’.
- Workers changing the records of where the chickens are slaughtered.
- Mixing the production line with chicken slaughtered on different dates. Allowing use-by-dates to reflect the mixed up chicken still as fresh meat.
- Chicken dropped on the floor picked up by workers and added back to production.
- Repackaging of returned chicken pieces by supermarket distribution centres and then sending them out to other alternative stores.
Here is the video published by the Guardian from their undercover investigation:
The Food Standards Agency has launched its own investigation into the matter. After visiting the factory on Thursday 28 September 2017, they found no evidence of breaches but said:
“However, we continue to review the evidence and if any incidences of non-compliance are found we will take prompt and proportionate action with the business concerned, working closely with the local authority.
“We would urge ITV and the Guardian to share any additional evidence, including witness statements, that would inform our investigation.”
In a statement, The Guardian and ITV said more than 20 workers at the factory in West Bromwich confessed that unhygienic practices do take place and some of them even said that they would not eat chicken from the supermarkets themselves after witnessing what goes on.
2 Sisters Food Group has 12 sites in the UK and is owned by Ranjit Singh Boparan and his wife Baljinder Kaur Boparan.
After seeing the evidence, the 2 Sisters Food Group said:
“We have now had an opportunity to view all the evidence and launch our own internal investigation. This is ongoing and we will ensure our inquiries are comprehensive and thorough. We will of course continue to work closely with all stakeholders during this investigative phase.”
In a previous statement they stated:
“2 Sisters Food Group ensures all staff is fully trained on hygiene and safety matters, and enforces a number of policies to ensure compliance with all regulations.
“It is subject to regular audits in these areas and staff has a number of ways in which to voice their concerns.”
The company claims that it is frequently audited by the FSA without notice and by others such as the Red Tractor assurance scheme.
The Boparans appear on the Sunday Times Rich List noted to be worth £544 million and are rarely seen in public.
In addition to the chicken production, the Boparans own a food empire worth over £3 billion that includes restaurants such as Giraffe, Fishworks and Harry Ramsdens; food brands such as Goodfella’s Pizza and Fox’s Biscuits and Turkey producer Bernard Matthews.
Neil Parish the chairman of the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committee has stated preparations are being made to call Ranjit Singh Boparan in front of the panel for a Q&A about the allegations. Parish said:
“It would be good if we could have a short, sharp inquiry. We need to restore both food safety, animal welfare and consumer confidence to these massive chicken plants run by 2 Sisters. We would certainly head for the highest levels of the company and ask them to present evidence to us. We are producing chicken to a very high standard in this country.”
It will be now up to the inquiry to highlight what will happen next, in this case, to restore public faith to confidently buy chicken at a supermarket, knowing it is safe to eat.