Britain's Indian-origin "chicken king" has apologised for the hygiene scandal involving one of the factories owned by his 2 Sisters Food Group.
Britain’s Indian-origin “chicken king” has apologised for the hygiene scandal involving one of the factories owned by his 2 Sisters Food Group and said that he has hired a “mystery worker” to spot breaches at his factories in future. Ranjit Singh Boparan revealed his new stricter safety plans as he faced the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (ERFA) committee this week. His appearance came as a result of an undercover investigative report aired earlier this month claiming regulatory breaches at a chicken processing plant in West Bromwich owned by his group. The allegations led to the UK’s largest supplier of supermarket chicken suspending production at the plant.
“We absolutely apologise for the doubt this has caused to our customers, consumers and employees,” Boparan told MPs of the parliamentary committee. “These four weeks have been very difficult for a lot of people. Mistakes happen but what we try to do is learn from the mistakes and put them right,” said the chief executive of the group he founded in 1993. “I can’t accept that you say we have low standards, because we have high standards… I reassure you we will continue to improve. I reassure you food safety is our highest agenda. I reassure you our food is safe,” he stressed, when it was suggested that some of the poultry supplied by his company may be unsafe.
A joint ‘Guardian’ and ITV News investigation had showed an instance of 2 Sisters workers at Boparan’s West Bromwich plant altering the source and slaughter date of poultry being processed in the firm’s Site D plant. Experts said altering “kill dates” could artificially stretch the commercial life of the meat and dupe consumers into buying chicken past its use-by date. It is illegal to place incorrect use-by dates on food, which are set for safety reasons and differ from “best before” dates. Other sections of the footage, which was filmed in August, showed chicken being picked off the floor and thrown back on to the production line, and older poultry being mixed with fresher birds.
“We train our staff when they join us. There is a four- hour induction programme. They are retrained every three years. There are signs up across the whole factory, do not pick up product off the floor,” Boparan said, adding that the training process will be stepped up to eight hours and repeated annually instead of every three years. “We are going to put a mystery worker going into factories that can actually see these things happening,” he said. Neil Parish, the chairman of the EFRA committee, said he would accept Boparan’s apology and his promise to improve standards going forward.
“What he said is on the record. I accept his word that he will improve and put things right,” Parish said, who plans to have a follow up meeting on the issue in six months to get an update on improvements made. During the committee session, the UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) and British Poultry Council also faced criticism for not being aware of the issues at the plant in question. “This should not have happened. All of you are culpable in one way or the other,” Parish noted.