Indian-origin 'chicken king' to face inquiry in UK
An Indian-origin entrepreneur, whose company is the biggest supplier of poultry to supermarkets in the UK, is to face a parliamentary inquiry after reports of alleged safety breaches at his factory.
Ranjit Singh Boparan-owned '2 Sisters Food Group' is to be investigated after an undercover media operation exposed footage of workers allegedly altering the source and slaughter date of poultry being processed at the company plant in West Bromwich in the West Midlands region of England.
The West Bromwich factory, which is part of the 2 Sisters Food Group, supplies chicken to major supermarkets including Tesco, Sainsbury's, Marks & Spencer, Aldi and Lidl.
Other footage gathered as part of a joint investigation by the Guardian and ITV News showed chicken being picked off the floor and being thrown back on to the production line, and older poultry being mixed with fresher birds.
The 2 Sisters group was founded in 1993 by Ranjit Singh Boparan, who is also known as 'Chicken King' and now employs 23,000 staff.
The chairman of the House of Commons environment, food and rural affairs committee, Neil Parish, said he was preparing to call Boparan before the panel to answer questions about the allegations.
"It would be good if we could have a short, sharp inquiry. We need to restore both food safety, animal welfare and consumer confidence to these massive chicken plants run by 2 Sisters," Parish said.
"We would certainly head for the highest levels of the company and ask them to present evidence to us. We are producing chicken to a very high standard in this country," he said.
The UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA) has also launched its investigation into the company, which produces a third of all poultry products eaten in the UK.
"Should we find any evidence of any risk to public health, any products on the market which we believe to be a cause of concern will be urgently removed from sale," said FSA chair Heather Hancock.
Some of the biggest chains, including Marks & Spencer, Aldi and Lidl, have meanwhile stopped sourcing chicken from the company's West Bromwich plant while the probe continue, which the company said it was taking "extremely seriously".
The Guardian and ITV News said in a statement that more than 20 workers had confirmed that unhygienic practices took place, while some said they would no longer eat chicken from supermarkets.
Some workers also claimed the chicken that supermarkets reject is sometimes repackaged at the factory and sent out again.
Although it has diversified, the bulk of the group's income still comes from processing poultry.
The company said that it had been made aware of the allegations on Thursday but had "not been given the time or the detailed evidence to conduct any thorough investigations to establish the facts, which makes a fullsome response very difficult".
"2 Sisters Food Group ensures all staff are fully trained on hygiene and safety matters, and enforces a number of policies to ensure compliance with all regulations.
"It is subject to regular audits in these areas and staff have a number of ways in which to voice their concerns," it said in a statement.
It claimed hygiene and safety remained at the "core" of its business, which was subject to frequent unannounced audits from the FSA and Red Tractor the UK food industry's assurance scheme among others.
The joint media investigation involved taking secret recordings during a spell of 12 working days inside the 2 Sisters' plant in West Bromwich.
(This article has not been edited by Zeebiz editorial team and is auto-generated from an agency feed.)
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