The Guardian has published new allegations about practices about standards at 2 Sisters’ poultry processing plants, two months after an original slew of claims forced the temporary closure of the firm’s West Bromwich plant.
The newspaper claimed in a story published late on 19 December that standards at 2 Sisters’ Coupar Angus plant in Scotland breached a number of requirements set by its customer Tesco, which caused the retailer to grade the supplier as ‘red’, requiring improvement.
According to The Guardian, the Tesco audit documents state that the problems found at 2 Sisters’ Coupar Angus plant included:
- Organic and non-organic chickens being mixed – with “insufficient evidence to support [corrective actions]and end product fate”.
- A computer system that allowed all factory workers “to change UB [use-by] dates”.
- “Several instances … of double labelling/no labelling”.
- “Serious issues” with records designed to account for chickens earmarked for disposal, with auditors concluding “the site cannot fully demonstrate which products have been sent to waste”.
- “Failed” efforts to trace chicken recorded as being despatched from the plant.
A spokesperson for 2 Sisters told The Guardian that neither the mixed organic and standard chicken, nor poultry earmarked for disposal, had been despatched to customers. The company added it does not supply standard chicken as organic and that the crates of meat auditors had failed to trace had not entered the food chain.
2 Sisters added that the problems date back two months to the time immediately following the original allegations relating to the West Bromwich site, when Tesco decided to conduct audits on all the plants that supplied it. “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.”
In response, 2 Sisters said it had decided to publish all its audit and inspection reports from its customers and regulatory bodies.
“We will be the first in the industry to do this and we hope this bold step will allow us to work with regulators, standard owners and customers to develop a system for all to use,” said a spokesman.
How Audits and Inspections Work
Audits and inspections are carried out by a number of organisations, they are all seeking to make sure that the way the firm operates meets the requirements of their organisation. Some of these are common but there are differences and some instances they will be seeking to check on specifics unique to their organisation.
The FSA and Local Authorities provide regulation at the national and local level. Their focus is to make sure that businesses comply with the law. It is the firm’s legal responsibility to produce safe food. They are audited by standard bodies such as BRC Global Standards, Red Tractor and the Soil Association. They check that the business meets the requirements of their schemes. In addition, customers carry out audits and inspections to make sure businesses are meeting their requirements which may in some cases go beyond those of the standard bodies. Each of these bodies will look at similar areas of activity and control within operations but from a different perspective and focus.
Recent Audit and Inspection history
Since 1 July 2017 to end November 2017 there have been 150 Audits / Inspections in 2 Sisters’ chicken processing sites, 114 were unannounced, 36 announced. These have identified a number of areas where improvement is needed but no food safety issues. 107 of these audits / inspections are since the Guardian / ITN investigation.
During 96 of those audits, non-conformances were notified to 2SFG. These are detailed below graded into three areas; where there was actual food safety or legality issues, where the system or process is not good enough and there could be a risk and finally where the firm could do things more effectively.
|Site||Latest BRC Grade||Audits and Inspections||Food Safety or Legal Issue||System or process
|System or process
could be improved
|Raised||Still Open||Raised||Still Open|
- Non-conformances are closed out (resolved) once remedial action has been put in place to address the risk or issue identified. Often short-term action on the day, solves the issue quickly but we only consider it fully completed once we have identified and addressed the root cause of the issue.
- BRC grades audits from AA to D, the plus indicates that it is an unannounced audit. All our sites are now in the unannounced programme.
- Average number of non-conformances raised by site during an audit / inspection 3.6
- Average number of non-conformances still open 0.02 per audit, per site.
- None of the non-conformances identified food safety issues.
A spokesman added: “2SFG produces safe food every day. We always seek to operate in a way that fully meets the expectations of our customers and regulators whilst continuously improving our operation. These audits / inspections, the insight they give us and the remedial action taken is an important part in the continuous improvement cycle.”