Retailers are investigating a whistleblower's concerns over food safety at Wales' biggest meat processing plant. A source at Kepak in Merthyr Tydfil – which serves major supermarkets including Aldi and Tesco – claims facilities are not being cleaned properly as staff face "impossible" demands.

The whistleblower shared pictures showing pieces of meat left on surfaces at the Pengarnddu Industrial Estate plant's cutting, processing, and packing lines. They claim time pressures prevent staff from properly addressing these issues. "After a night shift a quality auditor does the inspection at 5am and is meant to show the hygiene team of around four to five people what needs to be cleaned," they told WalesOnline. "But the hygiene team don't clean up properly because they don't have time before production starts at 6am. There is only an hour for both the quality auditor to do the inspection and the hygiene team to clean up the issues raised in the inspection.

"To do a proper audit you have to spend a minimum of 10 minutes on a line and there are 18 lines. An hour to check 18 lines is impossible for one person. By the time the auditor does the inspection the hygiene team has gone home. They are never around when the audit finishes. Pictures are taken after every night shift clean-down but they are left like that because production needs to start."

READ NEXT: Boss told worker 'I don't give a s*** about your kids' after school run

DON'T MISS: Police sergeant suspended after 'damaging iPhone 7 in a Tesco Express'

Picture from leaked internal report at Kepak site in Merthyr Tydfil, showing meat on equipment
Picture from leaked internal report at Kepak site in Merthyr Tydfil

Kepak, an Irish meat processor which owns Rustlers and Celtic Beef, employs more than 4,500 people, including around 1,000 at the Merthyr site. Its spokesman pointed out the business has the best possible rating from the British Retail Consortium (BRC), adding that "health and safety are key priorities and stringent hygiene policies are rooted firmly in our daily operations". The Welsh Retail Consortium told WalesOnline that retailers will "investigate [the whistleblower's] claims and take swift action where necessary".

Our source at the plant said: "When there is an unannounced visit from clients all the lines are stopped and the factory is cleaned before they come on the factory floor. But they don't see the reality of a normal day. The findings of the audit are not cleaned. Meat is not being cleaned from the lines properly therefore it’s contaminating freshly-produced meat."

WalesOnline has seen an internal pre-production hygiene report which found meat and fat "contaminants" had been left on various "dirty" pieces of equipment including conveyor belts, crusters, a drying tunnel, and knives. There were issues at 14 of the 43 spots inspected. The report says these areas were placed on hold, recleaned, and "the cleaning team were informed for review". But the whistleblower says staff do not have time to properly reclean the lines. "There is very poor management," he said. "Why insist on doing [the inspection and clean-up] in less than an hour?"

Picture from leaked internal report at Kepak site in Merthyr Tydfil showing meat on surface
Picture from leaked internal report at Kepak site in Merthyr Tydfil

A Kepak spokesman said: "Our food safety standards are independently verified, working closely with the Food Standards Agency who have a daily presence onsite. Meanwhile, USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) audits are conducted monthly and include rigorous pre-production hygiene assessments. We have the highest accreditation available through BRC, which recently awarded us an AA+ rating based on an unannounced four-day audit. We are also regularly audited by our customers. Through our robust processes we continue to maintain the very highest quality control procedures throughout the production and distribution process.”

Tesco says its processes ensure suppliers uphold food hygiene standards and it will investigate the allegations, including with a review of Kepak's cleaning procedures. Aldi did not provide a statement beyond the response from the Welsh Retail Consortium. The trade association's head Sara Jones said: “Retailers take food safety extremely seriously and expect their suppliers to uphold the highest standards. They will investigate these claims and take swift action where necessary.”

Picture from leaked internal report at Kepak site in Merthyr Tydfil showing meat on surface
Picture from leaked internal report at Kepak site in Merthyr Tydfil

Another major client, Princes Foods, said in a statement: “The integrity and safety of our products and the raw materials we source is of paramount importance. All our approved suppliers, including Kepak, undergo scheduled or unannounced audit inspections, and are required to meet national food safety and quality standards. We have contacted Kepak to discuss these allegations and will take any necessary action to affirm the integrity of raw materials we source.”