What happens when food safety isn’t embedded in a food production site – 2 Sisters chicken site
The recent report by the Guardian and ITV news regarding the alleged food hygiene and labelling breaches at the 2 Sisters chicken site are shocking. What is more shocking is that a company supplying a high proportion of the UK’s retail raw chicken has allowed a culture to develop where these alleged breaches can be carried out on what appears to be a routine basis.
A good food safety culture is where everyone takes ownership of the safety of the food & drink being produced. This culture has to extend from the top to the bottom of the business and is both behavioural and using prompts such as posters and facilities that make it easier to do. It is about having effective training, processes and procedures, and “doing it right” every time. It also about the management team ensuring that this culture is modelled and embedded in the business.
The video filming poultry being picked up from the floor and placed back onto the line, appears to show this being routine. I am surprised that the recording equipment was able to be used as protective clothing checks would also be routinely done on the team in the production area. The covert filming is happening in a busy production environment, and this may explain this. The person filming is also a new operative and should be closely supervised.
The alleged relabelling of the cases of poultry to amend the production date by one day is a potential breach of food hygiene regulations. There is a legal requirement to be able to track the food through the production process. By changing the date by a day, apparently extending the shelf life, the operative is removing the ability to be able to trace the poultry, if there was a reason to recall the batch. This is in addition to breaching the food hygiene regulations if there is no evidence to substantiate the extension.
The repacking of the chicken from one retailer to another, if the product was within the specification, is an issue for the retailers as is demonstrates that the exclusivity of the brand is not as it appears.
The video appears to show a food production area where food safety is not considered to be important. This has not been embedded in the culture of the teams working in the area. A new team member should be closely supervised in order to ensure that they are competent, not only in their role but also in the food safety and health & safety requirements of their role. These competencies take time to fully develop and then assess. Training and initial competence can be delivered before starting work. The opportunity to move to different areas of a production area, and stand watching other operations is unusual in a high-volume food production area.
I am sure that the site, head office and retailers implicated will launch full technical investigations. As the dates of the alleged date changes have been recorded on the videos, the documentation and any CCTV footage will be scrutinised by the investigating teams. I would also expect the food safety regulators to launch an investigation.
The FSA have announced that their investigation is to widen out to other 2 Sisters sites as ” 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. “