An undercover investigation by the Guardian and ITV News has found that workers for 2 Sisters Food Group, a major supplier of chicken for UK supermarkets and grocers, have been tampering with food safety records which could result in consumers buying meat which is past its use-by date.

The act of changing the “kill date” of the meat could artificially extend the commercial life of the product by tricking a food processor to print incorrect use-by dates on the food packaging. Use-by dates differ to “best before” dates and it is illegal to place incorrect use-by dates on food.

As well as changing kill dates, the investigation claims to have captured evidence of:

  • Chicken portions returned by supermarket distribution centres being repackaged by 2 Sisters and sent out again to major grocers.
  • Workers dropping chickens on the floor of the processing plant and returning them to the production line.
  • Workers altering records of where chickens were slaughtered, potentially hindering authorities from recalling contaminated meat during food scares.
  • Chickens slaughtered on different dates being mixed on the production line. Workers said use-by dates printed on the packets of the mixed chicken tended to reflect the age of the freshest, rather than oldest, meat in the batch.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has announced it will launch investigations into the 2 Sisters Food Group plant where the evidence of potential breaches was filmed. Supermarkets Tesco, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s, Aldi and Lidl have also announced they will be carrying out investigations. The FSA has urged ITN and the Guardian to share any additional evidence they have that would help inform any investigation.

2 Sisters Food Group has so far described the allegations as false, while their legal advisors have stated in a letter in response to the claims by the Guardian and ITV News that “food safety and hygiene are 2SFG’s top priorities. To the extent that you have identified any shortcomings (which is not admitted), these could only be isolated examples which our clients would take very seriously, and they are investigating the allegations made.”

Michelle Victor, partner in Leigh Day’s consumer law and product safety team, said:

“The allegations arising from this investigation are very serious and it is reassuring that both the FSA and the supermarkets involved are treating it as such.

"Consumers should be able to place trust in the food and ingredients they purchase and the use-by dates play a key part in that process. Anything which raises doubt over the safety of food and drink is of great concern.

“We have represented a number of people who have suffered major illnesses as a result of consuming food which was not fit for sale and the effects can be life changing for many people.”