What are the most damning allegations?
While much of the Guardian’s report seemed to simply document the harsh reality of working in mass-scale meat manufacturing, it also made a number of serious food safety allegations which included:
- Workers changing ‘kill dates,’ resulting in chickens that are recorded as being fresher than they are. This could mean consumers purchasing meat past its use-by date. It is illegal to place incorrect use-by dates on food.
- Location of slaughter information also being altered, which would make tracing and recalling such chicken fairly impossible.
- Packets of chicken that have been returned to the factory (either by the supermarket or internal quality controllers) being opened and repackaged for a different brand. A specific example given was chicken returned from Lidl being opened and then repackaged as Tesco’s Willow Farm brand.
- Batches of fresh meat being topped up with older stock, some of which had been slaughtered up to five days earlier.
- Chicken parts that had fallen on the floor being picked up and thrown back on to the production line.
How did the news outlets discover the alleged breaches?
They sent in two undercover reporters into two different sites. One journalist spent 12 days working inside the 2 Sisters portioning and packaging plant in West Bromwich (where the majority of accusations relate), and the other spent three days at a slaughtering facility near Exeter.
What are the supermarkets saying?
Marks & Spencer, Aldi and Lidl have suspended buying chicken from the West Bromwich plant.
M&S said: As per our statement yesterday, the standards shown in the footage are unacceptable, we take hygiene and traceability very seriously and have extremely high production standards.”
Aldi said: “We have suspended supply from this site while we carry out an urgent investigation into these allegations. We expect all suppliers to adhere to the highest possible food hygiene and traceability standards at all times.”
Lidl added: “We immediately launched an investigation with the supplier and can confirm that we will not be sourcing from those sites until the investigations have been satisfactorily concluded.”
Tesco and Sainsbury’s are also carrying out investigations but at this time have not announced any suspension in buying.
What is 2 Sisters saying?
Pointing out that its West Bromwich plant has been subject to nine audits (five unannounced) during July and August alone, 2 Sisters says it operates “in one of the most tightly controlled and highly regulated food sectors in the world.” It has so far declined to comment in detail on specific allegations, claiming it is too soon to have conducted a thorough investigation but adds: “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.”
The FSA said inspectors visited the West Bromwich plant on Thursday and found no evidence of breaches. It has urged the Guardian and ITV News to hand over any further evidence it collected. It will be working with the local authority and deciding whether to take the investigation further.