LIDL, Aldi and Marks and Spencer have ditched a major chicken supplier after it was accused of duping shoppers into buying out-of-date meat.
An undercover probe found workers apparently altering “kill dates” at a 2 Sisters Food Group plant.
The Birmingham-based firm produces a third of all poultry products eaten in the UK, supplying stores including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Aldi and Lidl.
The probe found that meat of different ages was allegedly being mixed together and codes on crates of meat were changed.
Supermarket poultry typically has a use-by date around ten days after slaughter.
Recordings at its West Bromwich plant also suggested portions returned by supermarket distributors were repackaged and sent out again.
The reporter also claimed to have seen employees at the multi-million pound business returning potentially contaminated chicken to the production line after it had fallen on the floor.
And staff were said to alter records of where birds were slaughtered, potentially hindering any future recall of contaminated meat.
One worker told the ITV/Guardian probe he changed kill dates “lots of times”.
He added: “My supervisor, he asked me do it. If you are buying fresh chicken it can be older chicken.”
ITV News and the Guardian said in a statement that more than 20 workers had confirmed the unhygienic practices took place while some said they will no longer eat chicken from supermarkets.
Prof Chris Elliott, a food safety expert, said: “This absolutely calls out for a full investigation.”
Entrepreneur Ranjit Singh Boparan, said to be worth £544million, owns 2 Sisters.
He founded it in 1993 and now employs 23,000 staff.
The company now has brands such as Fox’s Biscuits, Goodfella’s Pizza and the Harry Ramsden fish and chip chain in its stable, but poultry is still the company’s strongest revenue stream.
Although it has diversified, the bulk of the group’s income still comes from processing poultry.
Mr Boparan and his wife Baljinder have a fortune of £544 million, according to the Sunday Times.
The firm said it had not had enough time or detail to respond to the “false” allegations, which it took “extremely seriously”.
It said it was subject to regular inspections by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and other hygiene standards organisations.
The FSA said: “The Food Standards Agency takes any allegations of inaccurate labelling and breaches in hygiene regulations very seriously.
Budget chain was the first Lidl to announce they have ditched 2 Sisters until investigations into the company are complete.
A spokesperson said: “Lidl UK takes the issue of food safety extremely seriously and we were very disappointed to see the unacceptable standards shown in yesterday’s report.
“We immediately launched an investigation with the supplier and can confirm that we will not be sourcing from the site until the investigations have been satisfactorily concluded.”
Aldi added: “We have suspended supply from this site while we carry out an urgent investigation into these allegations.
“We expect all suppliers to adhere to the highest possible food hygiene and traceability standards at all times.”
M&S said it had also suspended business with 2SFG, pending the outcome of an investigation.
A spokesman said: “As a precautionary measure, all fresh chicken that is supplied directly from this site has been removed from our shelves today.”
Tesco and Sainsbury’s have both issued statements saying they were investigating the allegations.