The move by 2 Sisters Food Group – who produce a third of the country’s poultry – came as a joint television investigation by ITV News and the Guardian showed staff changing slaughter dates so consumers would buy meat past its use-by date.
A number of supermarkets, including Marks & Spencer, Aldi, Lidl and the Co-op, have ceased buying chicken from the West Midlands company, while Tesco and Sainsbury’s are exploring the allegations.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA), the government’s food safety regulator, has said it is investigating the findings.
We would always encourage consumers to take note of our advice on safe cooking, handling and storage of chicken and other poultry meat.
“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.
“We would always encourage consumers to take note of our advice on safe cooking, handling and storage of chicken and other poultry meat.”
In a statement, 2 Sisters Food Group said it took the allegations “extremely seriously” but it had “not been given the time or the detailed evidence to conduct any thorough investigations to establish the facts, which makes a fulsome and detailed response very difficult”.
According to the FSA, the use-by date is about safety – in contrast to the best before date which is about quality – and it’s important not to eat products after this point.
Foods that tend to be labelled this way are those that go off quickly, including meat products and ready-made salads.
The NHS warn that not adhering to the use-by date could mean you eat spoiled food and risk food poisoning.
Food poisoning is caused by eating contaminated food, and it usually begins within one to two days.
Symptoms include feeling sick, vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach cramps, loss of appetite, high temperature, aching muscles and chills.
In most cases, symptoms will pass in a few days and people will make a full recovery, however on some occasions people may need to seek medical attention.
It is important to cook chicken thoroughly and avoid washing it before cooking.
This is because not only will the bacteria – a particular type, Campylobacter, is found on 60 per cent of supermarket chicken – be killed thoroughly by heat, you could risk spreading it to other surfaces and foods in your kitchen.
Earlier this year it was revealed that poultry is now the UK’s most popular meat.
However, recalls are now at their highest level in over a decade, according to Stericycle Q2 2017 Recall Index.
Nine out of ten recalled poultry meats were contaminated with potentially deadly bacteria.
With food poisoning hospitalising 20,000 people and killing 500 in the UK each year, this is particularly concerning.