Food giant in grip of crisis suspends production

Ranjit Boparan of 2 Sisters

Food giant 2 Sisters has suspended production at its West Bromwich factory as it fights to contain a crisis that has seen regulators and major customers launch investigations into food standards.

The Food Standards Agency, Tesco and Sainsbury’s are all looking into allegations that first surfaced in a joint Guardian/ITV investigation. An undercover reporter collected evidence to support claims that dates were changed on chicken, and meat of different ages was mixed together.

Marks & Spencer, Aldi and Lidl are among the food retailers that had said they wouldn’t take products from 2 Sisters’ West Bromwich site while investigations were ongoing.

2 Sisters admitted on Sunday they have found “some isolated instances of non-compliance” in its quality management systems.

It has stopped production at the site and said all staff will undergo retraining on full pay.

Birmingham-based 2 Sisters is a £3bn-turnover group owned by Ranjit Boparan which employs more than 22,000 people. Its most recent published annual accounts, for the year to July 2016, showed pre-tax profits of £110m.

The business produces products for the major UK supermarkets as well as owning brands including Bernard Matthews, Fox’s Biscuits and Goodfella’s Pizza. The wider group also owns restaurant chains Harry Ramsdens, Giraffe and Ed’s Easy Diner.

In an updated response issued on Sunday it said it was “shocked and distressed” by the allegations which were made public last Thursday, and had been “working around the clock to get to the truth of the matter”.

2 Sisters launched its own investigation and invited the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to independently review its standards, adding that the regulator “has not identified any breaches”.