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UPDATED: EFRA Chair urges caution over 2 Sisters’ audit publishing

It comes after 2 Sisters accused undercover reporters of trying to damage its reputation after they reported its Coupar Angus factory had received a ‘red warning’ in a Tesco audit.


Alex   Black

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Alex   Black
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2 Sisters accuses undercover reporters of trying to ruin its reputation

EFRA chairman Neil Parish has urged caution following 2 Sisters announcement it would publish the result of every audit of its factories. He welcomed the move but said it should not be seen as a ‘bold step’ for the industry.

 

Audits

 

He highlighted the Committee’s report last month on 2 Sister’s poultry plants which recommended FSA should receive audits carried out on behalf of the large retailers.

 

“We are pleased, therefore, that 2 Sisters has decided to make its audits publicly available.

 

“Our recommendation has also been vindicated by the recent revelations that Tesco had separately unearthed major process issues at 2 Sisters’ Coupar Angus plant.

 

“It is very concerning that this information was not placed in the public domain, and more concerning that it was not volunteered by 2 Sisters at any point during our inquiry.

 

“2 Sisters’ decision to publish its audit results, therefore, should not be seen as a ‘bold step’ for the industry, but as a necessary means for it to regain consumer confidence after the disarray exposed in the Guardian and ITV’s investigation.

 

“My committee has promised to keep a close eye on 2 Sisters as it works to regain this confidence, and we have every intention of doing so.”

 

The report also noted unannounced visits were not a complete surprise as a processor had a period of 30 minutes grace before the inspection began and the problems at West Bromwich were not a ‘one-off’.

 

ITV and the Guardian reported on leaked documents of an audit at its Coupar Angus site.


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The audits followed undercover footage from 2 Sisters’ West Bromwich site by ITV and the Guardian in September which appeared to show workers changing the date of slaughter.

 

The company has been under an increased amount of scrutiny since the footage was published.

 

2 Sisters is the UK’s largest supermarket supplier of chicken and supplies retailers including Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Marks and Spencer, Lidl, Aldi, Co-op and Iceland.

 

Following the reports, Tesco said it launched 46 visits and inspections at 2 Sisters sites but did not ‘identify regulatory breaches at any of 2 Sisters sites’.

Reputation

 

2 Sisters said it viewed the allegations ‘extremely seriously’.

 

“However, ITV and The Guardian are referring to standard inspection audits and appear to be trying to damage the reputation of our factories and potentially the livelihoods of 23,000 colleagues by misrepresenting them.

 

“There is and never was any risk to food safety at Coupar Angus. This is using old news to highlight issues which were resolved with our customer two months ago.”

 

Tesco’s audit reported the waste records at Coupar Angus were not detailed enough. Inspectors also found crates of meat with double labels, old labels or none at all.

 

And a computer on the factory floor was not password protected theoretically allowing anyone to change the use-by dates on meat.

 

2 Sisters has also published UK poultry audit data in the interests of transparency, showing none of the previous 150 audits at the site had identified food safety issues, although they did identify ‘a number of areas where improvement is needed’.

High standards

 

A Tesco spokesman said: “Nothing is more important to Tesco than the safety of the food we sell. We ensure the food our supplier partners produce is of the highest standard with routine, detailed and rigorous audits across our supply chain.

 

“When we became aware of the issues at 2 Sisters’ West Bromwich site, we immediately conducted an additional 46 visits and inspections across other 2 Sisters poultry sites.

 

“None of the specific food safety risks highlighted at West Bromwich were replicated at any other site. Tesco’s inspections did not identify regulatory breaches at any of 2 Sisters sites.

 

“Coupar Angus is an important source of chicken for the whole retail industry. All retailers conduct regular inspections as a safeguard against potential food safety issues.

 

“Our inspection highlighted a number of inadequate processes at this site, including labelling, segregation, traceability and recording. We insisted these were addressed immediately to prevent any food safety issues.

 

“We have shared our findings with the Food Standards Agency and Food Standards Scotland and welcome their investigations. We continue to monitor practices closely across 2 Sisters poultry sites.”

Guardian News and Media spokesman

"The Guardian and ITV investigation into 2 Sisters has shone a light on food standards​​ in general and at ​the ​2 Sisters​ factories​ in particular. Following the initial airing of our undercover footage from the West Bromwich plant, 2 Sisters temporarily closed down the site ​it said to retrain staff.

 

"Further to this the Efra select committee conducted its own inquiry, and the Food Standards Agency also launched its own investigation, which is ongoing.


"Tesco responded directly with a series of emergency 2 Sisters plant inspections a day after our investigation was published. We have seen the audit findings of one of those at Coupar Angus​, where different process failings meant the site received a red warning rating, which is given to fewer than 1 per cent of Tesco supplier sites​.


"We reported the contents of those documents faithfully along with 2 Sisters' response and Tesco's statement, which said that the process problems identified 'were addressed immediately to prevent any food safety issues'."

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