2 Sisters and Standards in Poultry Processing Contents

Conclusions

Trade and accreditation bodies

1.For an industry which takes pride in the quality of its produce we were surprised to hear of the apparently patchwork nature of the accreditation process. It appears relatively simple for someone to game the system and hide infractions - by opting out of unannounced visits by the accreditors for example - and the lack of joined up intelligence and knowledge sharing seemingly presents many gaps into which misdemeanours can fall. (Paragraph 12)

2.We trust that all accreditation firms, not just those who appeared before us, will use this incident as a wake-up call to tighten their processes and remove some of the more obvious loopholes. We further trust that the confidentiality issues which apparently prevent the systematic sharing of data and intelligence can be worked around so that a single unified record of standards and hygiene practices can be kept to better identify failings. We recommend that the Food Standards Agency takes steps in this direction and works with food accreditation companies towards a solution, and updates us on its progress within six months of publication of this report. (Paragraph 13)

Regulatory agencies

3.The problems identified at the 2 Sisters plant at West Bromwich are not a one-off. The past record of the 2 Sisters Food Group is far from pristine and there are valid questions to be asked of its corporate governance structure. That being the case, we are concerned at the apparent laxity of the oversight of the Site D facility, an incredibly important part of the poultry food chain. Any risk management assessment which did not give this plant the highest priority and the most stringent levels of scrutiny is flawed. The Food Standards Agency’s investigation into the case must examine the quality of its risk assessment to take better account both of its management’s history and the facility’s role in the food chain and the number of farmers and suppliers who rely on it. (Paragraph 17)

4.During our inquiry we heard concrete suggestions for reform which we consider necessary to re-establish consumer confidence in the food chain. The value of CCTV in cutting plants to act as a permanent inspector of practices was repeatedly mentioned. We are aware that CCTV is planned to be made compulsory in slaughterhouses. We recommend that Defra both launch a consultation on extending these measures to cutting plants and produce an impact assessment of the likely costs and benefits to the industry of introducing such measures. (Paragraph 18)

5.The Food Standards Agency Food Crime Unit was initially established as an intelligence-gathering unit. The Food Standards Agency is keen to upgrade its role to include an investigatory function. We are concerned at the suggestion from the FSA that the funding necessary to complete this upgrade has not been immediately forthcoming from the Treasury and is instead seemingly stuck in limbo. We would like to assume that this recent incident, and our subsequent inquiry, has provided the impetus for the necessary funding to be made available. We recommend that Defra and the Food Standards Agency confirm to us in response to this Report that this is the case and the required funds have been released. (Paragraph 19)

2 Sisters Food Group

6.The modern food supply chain is incredibly fragile and sensitive. A failure in a single section of the chain can have catastrophic effects on hundreds of small suppliers and farmers. As well as the personal cost to Mr Boparan of the temporary suspension of Site D, many others have lost out from the failings highlighted in his plant. In that context we were pleased to hear of the short- and medium-term steps he is taking to prevent a re-occurrence and future stoppages in his plant. We request that Mr Boparan continues to update us on his progress in both installing these new measures and on re-establishing his supplier relationship with the main retailers. (Paragraph 25)

Our future work

7.We note the commitments made to us. They are a matter of public record. We trust that they will be acted upon in the same good faith in which they were received. At the same time, all those involved in the food chain require confirmation that changes have been made and incidents such as these prevented. We recommend that the Food Standards Agency provide us with a written assurance that each reform promised to us by the accreditation agencies, 2 Sisters Food Group and the FSA itself has been made, no later than six months from publication of this report. We further request an interim update no later than three months from publication of this report. Upon receipt of that update we will consider our future action, including whether to re-open this inquiry and take further evidence from those involved. (Paragraph 26)





16 November 2017