The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has published a report about its investigation into 2 Sisters Food Group (2SFG) following a media exposé into the company’s hygiene practices.
On 26 September 2017 The Guardian and ITN published allegations of food hygiene issues at 2SFG’s Site D, supported by video footage shot by undercover journalists.
Among the allegations were claims that chicken that had been dropped on the floor and put back into the production line, that staff had changed kill dates and locations, that chicken returned to the site had been repackaged and sent out to supermarkets again, that chicken packed for a certain supermarket would be relabelled for a competitor and that freshly killed chicken had been mixed with older chicken.
Following publication of the piece the company suspended operations at Site D for an internal investigation to take place. The FSA launched its own investigation, which included 17 site visits and the examination of 500 hours of CCTV. The Guardian and ITN declined the FSA’s request to view their footage, so it could not be included within the investigation.
Substantive CCTV evidence of chicken being returned to the production line after being dropped on the floor, or of labels or packaging being changed was not found by the FSA, but verbal advice was given, staff retrained and practices altered.
The FSA did report “sporadic poor hygiene and bad practice, such as inadequate use of protective clothing, placing of knives on unhygienic surfaces or inadequate cleaning procedures”, but said that this did not represent “widespread systematic failures”.
Jason Feeney, chief executive of the Food Standards Agency said: “Our investigation found some areas for improvement but the issues were resolved promptly by the company, who co-operated fully, and at no point did we find it necessary to take formal enforcement action.
“The business has made a wide range of improvements across all their sites to improve processes. They are already publishing the outcomes of all their audits and are in the process of installing high quality CCTV across their estate that we will have full access to. These are measures we would like the whole industry to adopt.”
Following investigations into 2SFG and Russell Hume, which has since folded, the FSA has launched a full report into meat processing plants across the UK, which will be published in June.
The government body has also announced that it will work with the industry to see the installation of CCTV across cutting plants and examine ways to better anticipate non-compliances.
In a statement UKHospitality said: “UKHospitality welcomes the announcement that FSA will be undertaking a review of cutting plants and cold stores. The hospitality industry is a major stakeholder in this review, and we are very keen to offer assistance in this important area of work. Recent failures in the system have resulted in serious reputational and financial damage to our members.
“At the end of the supply chain, we can offer great insight to this review, and going forward can leverage influence over our suppliers once clear direction has been given. We are disappointed that there will be no analysis or review of scientific evidence, as this is pivotal for any risk assessment.
“We have already raised questions to the FSA regarding best practice on behalf of our members, who have raised concerns about the complexity of the legislation and guidance, and we are keen to help our members achieve the highest standards.”