CHICKEN SCANDAL UPDATE: FSA changes stance on hygiene at 2 Sisters poultry plant

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has admitted that 2 Sisters Food Group did breach hygiene regulations at its Scunthorpe facility.

An initial investigation, prompted by health secretary Jeremy Hunt, was launched after The Guardian reported food safety failings at 2 Sisters’ Llangefni and Scunthorpe sites. The Guardian published footage of chicken being picked off the floor at its Scunthorpe plant, possibly spreading harmful bacteria such as campylobacter. The FSA originally said it was satisfied with the plant and that there was no risk to public health. However, it has since made a U-turn, stating that its original findings were misleading and that safety regulations were breached.

A spokesperson from the FSA said: “The FSA has carried out a further review of The Guardian footage, which shows a chicken being picked off the floor and returned to a bin. We have reviewed the footage in the light of information we have gathered about the business’ procedures for dealing with such events. Birds falling on the floor are a potential risk, but if there is proper procedure (such as effective washing) it is not a non-compliance. The conclusion of a review visit was that the examples in the video did provide evidence of failure to follow the plant’s own procedures and so constituted a breach of hygiene regulations.”

2 Sisters responded to the allegations in a statement on its website: “We welcomed the recent FSA independent audit at two of our sites, which found no legal compliance issues. Both customers and our own internal investigations supported the FSA’s findings.

"However, we are not complacent and we will carry on with our own continual improvement programme, taking on board learnings, investing in our colleagues, our factories and our product development. We will also lead on hygiene and continue with our industry-leading campylobacter trials to tackle this issue once and for all.

"We are determined to lead the poultry sector with best practice and compliance, and are always looking to improve standards across our operation.”

The FSA concluded that it was “satisfied” with action taken at the plant: “We are satisfied that corrective actions have been taken by the company and it is our view that no formal enforcement action is appropriate.”

Meanwhile, the FSA has confirmed it will publish the names of retailers with unacceptably high levels of campylobacter.

In a statement the food body had said that its first set of results, representing the first quarter of the year-long survey could not be interpreted in a “meaningful way, so breaking results down by retailer and processor at this stage could mislead consumers. The FSA board agreed with our position, but called for the final results to be delivered sooner than previously planned.”

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