Food Safety Scotland

Raw Chicken Fiddles? Where does yours come from?

UK’s top supplier of supermarket chicken may have fiddled food safety dates

out-of-date meat.

prepared chicken

Guardian/ITV News investigation reveals

A business supplying Tesco, Sainsbury’s and M&S may have misled customers into buying out-of-date meat. The largest supplier of chicken to UK supermarkets has been reported as having tampered with food safety records in ways that could dupe consumers into buying meat past its recommended use-by date.

Altering the slaughter date

An investigation by the Guardian and ITV News recorded undercover footage of workers altering the slaughter date of poultry being processed at a UK food plant. The group owning this plant produces a third of all poultry products eaten in the UK and supplies top grocers including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer, Aldi and Lidl.


When informed of the evidence, all five retailers responded saying they would start immediate investigations.

Out-of-date meat stretch the products commercial life

Experts said the practice of changing “kill dates” could artificially stretch the commercial life of meat products by triggering the food processor to print incorrect use-by dates on supermarket packaging.Workers at the company confirmed they had been asked to switch these labels on other occasions.
It is illegal to place incorrect use-by dates on food, which are set for safety reasons and differ from “best before” dates.The joint investigation, which involved taking secret recordings during a spell of 12 working days inside a plant in West Bromwich, also captured evidence that:

  • Chicken portions returned by supermarket distribution centres are being repackaged and sent out again to major grocers.
  • Chickens dropped on the floor of the processing plant and returned to the production line.
  • Records changed of where chickens were slaughtered, potentially hindering authorities from recalling contaminated meat during food scares.
  • Chickens slaughtered on different dates are mixed up on the production line. Some use-by dates printed on the packets of the mixed chicken reflecting the age of the freshest, rather than oldest meat


“Poor Standards”

Having been shown the evidence, Prof Chris Elliott, a food safety academic from Queen’s University Belfast who led the UK government’s independent review of food systems following the 2013 horse meat scandal, said: “Over the past three to four years I have conducted many inspections of food businesses right across the UK. I have never seen one operate under such poor standards as the video evidence shows.
“I think [this] absolutely calls out for a full investigation. We need to get environmental health officers, we need to get the Food Standards Agency to do a thorough investigation. The Food Standards Agency will take this very seriously. They will look at the premises and see if there are grounds to close the facility down.”

Company Response

NB The company said it had not been given enough time or detail to respond to the allegations, which it described as “false”.
A letter from their legal advisers, Schillings, said: “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.”
The company added that they: “ensure all staff are fully trained on hygiene and safety matters, and that they enforce a number of policies to ensure compliance with all regulations. The plant is subject to regular audits in these areas and staff have a number of ways in which to voice their concerns.