An Indian-origin head of a sprawling UK food empire is facing a parliamentary and other inquiries after an undercover investigation found safety dates of chicken being allegedly manipulated in his factory.
Ranjit Singh Boparan, whose 2 Sisters Food Group is the UK’s second largest by turnover, is due to be called by the parliamentary committee on environment, food and rural affairs to answer questions on the scandal.
An investigation by The Guardian and ITV News showed poor hygiene standards in his factory and food safety records being allegedly altered that could lead to prolonging the shelf life of chicken. The food standards agency (FSA) also investigated the factory.
The Guardian said its investigation revealed an instance of workers altering the “kill date” of hundreds of chickens to one day later in August. Chicken portions returned by supermarket distribution centres being repackaged and sent out again to rival grocers.
Other instances included workers dropping chicken on the floor of the processing plant and returning it to the production line, and chickens slaughtered on different dates being mixed on the production line.
A spokesman for 2 Sisters said: “We have now had an opportunity to view all the evidence and launch our own internal investigation. This is ongoing and we will ensure our inquiries are comprehensive and thorough. We will of course continue to work closely with all stakeholders during this investigative phase.”
The FSA said its latest investigation did not find any breaches, but chairperson Heather Hancock said: “It is the responsibility of a food business to ensure that the food it sells is safe and what it says it is. We take any allegations of inaccurate labelling and breaches in hygiene regulations very seriously”.
“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.”
Known as the “chicken king”, Wolverhampton-born Boparan, 51, founded the food group in West Bromwich with a bank loan in 1993, and went on to become one of Britain’s largest food producers.
Boparan and his wife Baljinder Kaur Boparan are estimated by the Sunday Times Rich List to be worth £544 million. He is known to maintain a low profile, rarely seen at public events, including those organised by the Indian community.