A Parliamentary inquiry is to be launched following an undercover investigation by ITV News and the Guardian which found a series of potential breaches of food safety rules at the UK's largest supplier of supermarket chicken.
The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee confirmed the inquiry would be carried out in the wake of the investigation into 2 Sisters Food Group.
They also confirmed Ranjit Singh Boparan, the owner and chief executive of 2 Sisters would give evidence, along with the Food Standard's Agency (FSA), the British Poultry Council and Assured Food Standards, at the inquiry.
A joint ITV News and the Guardian investigation uncovered a series of potential breaches of food safety rules in one of the company’s factories in the West Midlands.
An undercover reporter got a job at "Site D" in West Bromwich, which processes fresh chicken for Tesco, Sainsbury's, Aldi, Lidl and Marks and Spencer, but found evidence that suggests some of the chicken 2 Sisters produces may not be as fresh as the use by date suggests.
At the West Bromwich site, the undercover reporter witnessed:
- Workers changing both the date of slaughter and the source codes on crates of chicken crowns in such a way that artificially extended the meat’s shelf-life and rendered it almost untraceable in the event of an outbreak of food poisoning
- On several occasions, workers returning chicken to the production line after it had fallen to the floor. This may have caused it to become contaminated
- Meat of different ages being mixed together and he filmed Tesco's "exclusive" Willow Farms range being topped up with drumsticks that were originally packaged for Lidl
Tesco, Sainsbury's, Aldi, Lidl and Marks and Spencer have suspended deliveries from the plant but continue to source fresh chicken from elsewhere in the 2 Sisters group.
Neil Parish, Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee said the inquiry would be carried out to ensure that the UK has "the best poultry industry in the world".
He continued that the inquiry would look into 2 Sisters, the FSA and Environmental Health and try and determine why "the problem" had not been identified sooner.
Following the investigation, 2 Sisters Food Group told ITV News that hygiene and food safety is "the number one priority within the business".
A spokesperson added: "We also successfully operate in one of the most tightly-controlled and highly regulated food sectors in the world."
The company added it had launched a "comprehensive and thorough" internal investigation into its West Midlands site after viewing the evidence collected by ITV News.
The FSA also said it had launched an investigation into all 12 factories in 2 Sisters' UK Poultry operation in the wake of the investigation's findings.
A statement from the regulator said: "This inspection has not identified food safety issues on these premises, but it highlighted issues requiring management attention, for example in relation to some aspects of staff training and stock control.
"We are working with the major retailers supplied by 2 Sisters, as well as reviewing information from various other sources."
In response to the FSA investigation, 2 Sisters Food Group said: “We receive regular audits at all our English and Welsh sites by the FSA throughout the year, so of course we will welcome our FSA colleagues at any location they wish to inspect in the coming days.”
The inquiry will be held on October 25 and it is thought it will last for one day.