The raw (and probably some of the in-store cooked) chicken sold at stores like Marks & Spencer, Aldi, Lidl, The Co-op, Tesco, and Sainsbury’s is supplied by a company called 2 Sisters Food Group, based in Birmingham. It was founded in 1993 and has an annual revenue of over £3 billion. It has numerous subsidiaries, including Fox’s Biscuits.
Following an undercover operation involving ITV and The Guardian, it was revealed this week that workers at the West Bromwich plant had been changing the slaughter dates of chicken processed there. The company was also taking food back from supermarkets and repackaging and redistributing it. They are currently being investigated by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) as a result.
Back in 2013, 2 Sisters was fined £100,000 by FSA for shelf life date offences. In 2014, chicken which had been dropped on the factory floor at the Scunthorpe site was seen to be put back on the production line during an investigation into high levels of campylobacter in the UK food chain. 2 Sisters admitted to breaches of the rules, but was not fined.
In an update to the current issue, 2 Sisters has “suspended operations”. It isn’t explicitly stated that this suspension applies to just the West Bromwich plant, but I assume that’s what it means. But this is the part that sends shivers up my spine:
The 2 Sisters Food Group said staff at its site in the West Midlands will need to be “appropriately retrained” before it starts resupplying customers…
…the company said an internal investigation had shown “some isolated instances of non-compliance” at its plant in West Bromwich.
“We have therefore decided to temporarily suspend operations at the site to allow us the time to retrain all colleagues, including management, in all food safety and quality management systems.”
All staff will remain on full pay and take part in training on site, it added.
The thing that is clear is that someone somewhere was openly committing a crime – quite probably documented on film, one would assume, if ITV was involved. Even if those people were acting independently, they were still guilty, but it is more realistic to suppose that they were following orders, which widens the net both outwards and upwards.
So it makes you wonder how “retraining” of “colleagues” addresses this fairly obvious conclusion, and how being paid a full salary in the meantime goes anywhere near dealing with it appropriately.