Marks & Spencer, Aldi and Lidl have temporarily stopped accepting supplies of chicken from a plant accused of serious safety failures.
Workers were filmed changing date labels, which meant customers could be eating meat after a safe ‘use by’ date.
Potentially contaminated chicken was returned to the production line after it had fallen on the floor while older chicken pieces were mixed in with fresh ones.
It also emerged that packs of Tesco’s ‘Willow Farm’ fresh chicken were bulked up with chicken originally destined for Lidl. The supermarket has removed the claim ‘reared exclusively for Tesco’ on a description of the meat on its website.
An undercover investigation has exposed health failings at a factory in West Bromwich belonging to the 2 Sisters Group, the largest supplier of chicken to UK supermarkets
The factory is in West Bromwich in the West Midlands and part of the 2 Sisters group, the country’s largest supplier of chicken to supermarkets.
The revelations emerged in undercover filming during an investigation by ITV News and the Guardian.
The factory prepares fresh chicken for Sainsbury’s and Lidl as well as Tesco, Aldi and M&S.
Yesterday, M&S said: ‘We have commenced an immediate investigation and will not be taking any more products from this site until it has concluded to our satisfaction.’
Lidl said: ‘We immediately launched an investigation with the supplier and will not be sourcing from those sites until the investigations have been satisfactorily concluded.’
Aldi said: ‘We have suspended supply from this site while we carry out an urgent investigation.’ As of last night, Tesco and Sainsbury’s had not stopped accepting chicken from the plant – but both said they were investigating the allegations.
The Food Standards Agency said its inspectors ‘found no evidence of breaches’ at the plant earlier this week.
However, the watchdog has asked the team responsible for the original allegations to provide the details to allow further inquiries. FSA chairman Heather Hancock said: ‘It is the responsibility of a food business to ensure the food it sells is safe and what it says it is … Should we find any evidence of any risk to public health, any products on the market which we believe to be a cause of concern will be urgently removed from sale.’
Chef and food campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall told ITV News, said of intensive factory farming of chickens was ‘a business where the margins are so tight and the numbers are so huge that the pressure is on farmers and producers to cut costs and cut corners – just to deliver that ridiculously cheap price being demanded by the retailers’.
The 2 Sisters Food Group was founded in 1993 by Ranjit Singh Boparan. He and his wife Baljinder still own the business. The Sunday Times estimates their wealth to be £544 million.
A spokesman for the firm said: ‘Hygiene and food safety will always be the number one priority … We are subject to multiple and frequent unannounced audits … we are never complacent and remain committed to continually improving our processes and procedures.’