The UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) has revealed that its decision to stop meat leaving supplier Russell Hume’s premises is related to a number of issues including concerns about procedures and processes around use by dates.
Last week FSA officials ordered national meat firm Russell Hume to halt supplies after “serious non-compliance” with hygiene rules at one of its sites.
It made the decision after an “unannounced” visit by its officials to a facility in Birmingham in central England which led to a wider investigation in the following days across all Derby-based Russell Hume’s plants and also into products held in cold stores.
Following that decision a number of Russell Hume’s largest clients, including national pub chain JD Wetherspoon and the restaurants of celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, cancelled contracts with the firm.
In an update, the FSA said: “Based on the evidence gathered we became concerned that there was a more systemic and widespread problem which was more serious in terms of its scale and nature. It was only at this stage issues of serious non-compliance were uncovered.
“These related to a number of issues including concerns about procedures and processes around use by dates.”
But it stressed “there is no indication that people have become ill from eating meat supplied by Russell Hume”.
It added: “We then worked with the company so that they could initiate a voluntary recall of all affected products. Until the business can provide assurances that they are complying with the relevant legislation and that they are producing safe food, no meat can leave their sites.”
Jason Feeney, chief executive officer of the FSA, said: “We don’t take decisions to stop production, instigate product recalls or withdrawals lightly.
“Our job is to ensure that food produced by a business is safe and clearly we must take a proportionate approach.
“As the company have not been able to demonstrate they have a sufficiently robust management system in place it is absolutely right that we have taken these appropriate actions.”
The chairman of JD Wetherspoon, Tim Martin, apologised to customers after it was forced to remove meat from its menu last Tuesday (23 January), leaving customers without rump, sirloin or gammon at the chain’s weekly steak night.
Martin said: “Our decision to stop serving steak from Tuesday 23 January, despite limited information from the supplier, was the correct one.”