UK poultry processors 2 Sisters Food Group and Faccenda Foods assert they follow strict food safety practices after a July 23 report in The Guardian called the companies out for apparent failures in hygiene practices that prevent Campylobacter contamination. Both companies have questioned the accuracy of the report.
Allegations against 2 Sisters, Faccenda
The Guardian stated it obtained undercover footage, photographic evidence and information from whistleblowers at facilities operated by the two companies.
The allegations are:
- Chickens that fall on to the floor have repeatedly been put back on to the production line at two 2 Sisters sites.
- Breakdowns led to high-risk material – feathers, guts and offal – piling up for hours on separate occasions while production continued at a 2 Sisters factory in Wales.
- Another breakdown at the same 2 Sisters site led to the scald water not being cleaned for three days. As a result, around 250,000 birds allegedly passed through dirty water after slaughter.
- Biosecurity rules to stop the spread of Campylobacter in chicken sheds at Faccenda were regularly ignored by workers when he was employed there.
2 Sisters says it follows industry best practice in food safety
In response to The Guardian report, 2 Sisters Food Group on its website released a statement that said the allegations concerning 2 Sisters’ business and Campylobacter management “untrue, misleading and inaccurate. The company went on to say there is no Campylobacter contamination or problems at its sites, as confirmed by both internal and external audits.
“We strongly deny and defend ourselves against these allegations. Our company’s heritage is steeped in the poultry sector. We are extremely proud of this heritage and our excellent track record as a poultry processor, and we will remain so. We are doing more than any other business in addressing the key issues our sector is facing and we are leading the way in establishing and enforcing industry best practice,” the company stated on July 23.
A day later, 2 Sisters outlined the measures it was taking to assure that it maintains consumer trust. The company highlighted its GBP6 million (US$10.2 million) independent study into Campylobacter, initiated in November 2013, that the FSA praised as sector-leading. 2 Sisters also said it worked regularly with customers to reassure them the processes and procedures are best in class. Employees undergo a robust training and induction process and regularly are briefed to reinforce the importance of hygiene, the company stated. Finally, 2 Sisters said its food safety practices have been supported by stakeholders such as the FSA and the British Poultry Council.
Faccenda says food safety is a top priority issue
Faccenda Foods has also responded to the allegations, stressing that it has invested heavily in projects to tackle Campylobacter and that food safety is a top priority issue.
“Our action plan has been proactively shared and acknowledged with the FSA (Food Standards Agency) and our customers, focusing on three key areas - farm biosecurity, interventions in our factory operations and improved food safety in the kitchen,” the company stated.
"We have further improved biosecurity arrangements in place at all our farms working to revised Red Tractor standards.
"We also continue to invest in testing for routine surveillance as part of our risk assessment program. We have committed significant resources to the development of innovative factory interventions to reduce Campylobacter and will move to full-scale in-line trials later this year.
“Any change in our process will, where possible, be independently validated and our results shared with the FSA Joint Working Group on campylobacter. Again, we will use our testing program to monitor progress throughout this period.”
Food Standards Agency looking into allegations
According to a follow-up report in WalesOnline, The UK’s FSA said it was aware of the allegations, and would address them with the concerned companies.