Ranjit Singh Boparan, the chief executive of 2 Sisters Food Group, has apologised to MPs for hygiene breaches at the company’s West Bromwich cutting plant.
In particular, he said produce that had fallen on the floor and was then returned to production lines “absolutely should not have happened”.
But Mr Singh was less clear over allegations following undercover filming which suggested dates on poultry had been changed explaining investigations had so far failed to pin down exactly what was happening.
The member of staff in the footage had failed to co-operate with investigations and had been dismissed as a result, he told MPs on Wednesday (25 October).
His technical director, Chris Gilbert-Wood, suggested it was probably a worker correctly changing the kill date at the beginning of a shift.
To avoid doubt, the company has introduced a two-minute break in production lines between chicken of different kill dates.
In light of the scandal, Mr Singh said the company would double its routine staff training to eight hours and increase its frequency, install constantly monitored CCTV across all plants and place “mystery workers” on factory floors to monitor standards.
Mr Singh also welcomed the suggestion that Food Standards Agency inspectors should be present at all sites for a period at the company’s cost.
The 2 Sisters boss was summoned to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Efra) committee inquiry following a Guardian/ITV investigation into the West Bromwich plant.
An undercover reporter worked 12 shifts at the site over the summer and found a number of alleged food-hygiene breaches.
At times the hearing became heated, with Mr Singh defending standards at his company, and denying a culture of cost-cutting had been instrumental to his success.
“I cannot accept that we have low standards,” he explained, inviting the committee to visit the site unannounced for a tour.
‘Held to account’
Efra committee chairman Neil Parish, Conservative MP for Tiverton and Honiton, said he accepted Mr Singh’s assurance he would improve the plant.
Mr Parish said: “I believe you are going to put this right and restore confidence to us, retailers and consumers.”
But he warned if a similar story emerged again Mr Singh would be “held to account”.
Earlier in the hearing regulatory bodies and assurance scheme bosses also appeared in front of the committee.
Mr Parish accused all of being culpable in failing to uncover the failures in standards a reporter had found in just 12 shifts.
A 2 Sisters spokesman later added the company planned to release a “line by line” explanation for each allegation made by the Guardian and ITV, once its internal investigations had concluded.