2 Sisters Food Group fined more than £110,000 for breaching food safety laws

Latest news from the Bury Free Press
Latest news from the Bury Free Press

2 Sisters Food group have been ordered to pay more than £110,000 over a failure to maintain foods safety standards.

Mid Suffolk District Council (MSDC) discovered that chicken products made at the 2 Sisters factory at Haughley Park were being given a 14 day shelf life, four days longer than recommended in the Food Standards Agency guidance with respect to non-proteolytic Clostridium botulinum, resulting in a greater risk of Botulism for consumers.

The investigation resulted in the use of a Remedial Action Notice (RAN) by the Environmental Health service.

Having complied with this initial notice the company then went back to the 14 day shelf life and failed to comply with a second notice.

An investigation carried out by MSDC found the company had failed to comply with the notice, failed to have a suitable food safety management system in place and failed to provide records of production when the council tried to work out the scale of the problem.

Today (September 27) the company pleaded guilty to three charges and were fined £112,500 at Ipswich Crown Court.

The council was awarded costs of more than £41,000.

The case was aggrivated when managers on site hid substantial amounts of product from the investigating officers, some of which was later found in retail outlets by the Environmental Health team who suspected they were not being given the full facts.

The court heard that when council officials made a surprise visit to the factory in August 2011 managers stalled for almost 30 minutes before granting access while workers were told to load food which exceeded a 10 day shelf life onto lorries in the car park.

John Grayling, manager of food and safety services at Mid Suffolk and Babergh District Councils said: “Someone in the organisation was putting profit before food safety and it seems likely they were doing so because they thought it was what the company wanted.

“The case illustrates very well why it is necessary to have strong regulators ensuring that compliant businesses are not put at an economic disadvantage by those that will flout the regulations made to protect people.”

A spokesman for 2 Sisters Food Group said: “We deeply regret that what started as a genuine disagreement about the proper shelf life for certain products ended in a prosecution due to miscommunication within our organisation which resulted in a number of procedural oversights.

“Although there was no safety risk, we accept that we should have amended our documentation (in light of the Local Authority’s inspection) and updated them to reflect the systems that were in place at the site at the time.

“We also accept that more should have been done after the service of a Remedial Action Notice to monitor what was in fact taking place on site to ensure that the agreement that was thought to have been reached was being put in place with sufficient rigour.”

Read more in next week’s Bury Free Press

2 Sisters Prosecuted for Botulism Risk in Chicken Products

The 2 Sisters Food Group were today ordered to pay over £110,000 by Ipswich Crown Court over failure to maintain food safety standards.

Mid Suffolk District Council found that chicken products manufactured at the 2 Sisters site at Haughley Park were being given a 14 day shelf life, four days longer than recommended in the Food Standards Agency guidance for vacuum and modified atmosphere packed chilled foods with respect to non-proteolytic Clostridium botulinum. No alternative controlling factors were in use and this resulted in the service of Remedial Action Notices (RAN) by the Environmental Health service.

Having complied with an initial RAN the company went back to the 14 day shelf life and then failed to comply with a second notice. An investigation by Mid Suffolk District Council was carried out and this resulted in a prosecution of the 2 Sisters Food Group. The Council found that the company had failed to comply with the notice, failed to have a suitable food safety management system in place and then failed to provide records of production when the Council tried to establish the scale of the problem.

On the 27th of September 2013 the company pleaded guilty to the three charges and were fined a total of £112,500 and the Council was awarded costs of over £41,000.

The case was aggravated when managers on site hid substantial amounts of product from the investigating Officers, some of which was later found in retail outlets by the Environmental Health team who suspected they were not being given the full facts. It then took the company over 7 weeks to provide production records which eventually demonstrated the large quantities involved and putting a serious question over product traceability.

The offences relate to a serious breakdown of management control and resulted in a greater risk of Botulism for consumers, flying in the face of current guidance to manufacturers on how to produce food safely. The lack of management control by 2 Sisters over what happened at the Haughley Park site was disturbing and John Grayling, manager of food and safety services at Mid Suffolk and Babergh District Councils commented: ‘Someone in the organisation was putting profit before food safety and it seems likely they were doing so because they thought it was what the company wanted. The case illustrates very well why it is necessary to have strong regulators ensuring that compliant businesses are not put at an economic disadvantage by those that will flout the regulations made to protect people.’

Councillor Marilyn Curran, Portfolio Member for Environmental Health and Housing, commended the environmental health service on pursuing this case and commented: “In Mid Suffolk, we will always do what we can to support businesses and our Food and Safety team spend the majority of their time giving advice to food businesses to help them improve food safety. Where our advice is ignored and we feel that consumers are being put at risk however, we are always prepared to step in to protect the public.”