The 2 Sisters management team have denied accusations employees changed the kill dates of poultry processed at its West Midlands plant.
Chief executive Ranjit Singh Boparan and group technical director Chris Gilbert-Wood were hauled before MPs on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee to explain themselves after an undercover investigation by The Guardian and ITN appeared to show their workers breaching food safety rules.
Though Mr Boparan and Mr Gilbert-Wood accepted employees had picked chicken up off the floor and returned it to the production line, they denied kill dates had been tampered with.
Mr Gilbert-Wood said: “What was seen there was the labelling of the work in progress within the factory.
“When you move from the 15th kill date to the 16th kill date, sometimes the trays which are ready to take product, if they do not take them off the floor, meat of the 15th goes into trays labelled for the 16th.”
“It looks wrong, but it is not wrong because the correct kill date was being put on the meat inside the crate”, Mr Boparan added.
In order to prevent further confusion in the future, Mr Gilbert-Wood told the MPs trays would no longer be labelled with the kill date.
Instead, they would contain plastic liners to be folded on top of the chicken when full, after which a label with the kill date would be stuck on.
Asked why the employee caught changing the dates had been sacked if he had done nothing wrong, the two men said he had not been sacked because he had made a mistake in this instance, but because he had refused to cooperate with their internal investigation and was one of the men caught picking chicken up off the floor.
Another allegation questioned by Mr Gilbert-Wood was that chicken portions returned by supermarket distribution centres were repackaged and sent out again.
“No chicken moves back from a retail store back down the distribution network”, he said.
“It does not happen. Those labels showed packs which were being opened and repackaged. Those packs probably had been packed earlier in the day.”
Mr Gilbert-Wood admitted the plant did occasionally repack orders if they met the right specification for another order, but only if supermarkets had not taken their full, original order away.
He also claimed workers had not repackaged an order in this way on August 17, the date reporters said it took place.
The closest date 2 Sisters could find for a repackaged order was August 3.