Two incidents in six months prompt review in meat sector

By Joseph James Whitworth

- Last updated on GMT

Picture: iStock/flowersandclassicalmusic
Picture: iStock/flowersandclassicalmusic

Related tags Food safety Food standards agency

The FSA and FSS are to review meat cutting premises and cold stores following two incidents of ‘serious non-compliance’.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Food Standards Scotland (FSS) said action will be industry wide.

It comes after serious non-compliance issues at cutting plants run by 2 Sisters Food Group and Russell Hume.

Cutting plants do not have veterinary control on a daily basis and are inspected through unannounced visits by the FSA, FSS or local authorities. They are subject to Regulations (EC) 852/2004 and (EC) 853/2004.

Audit frequency varies from at least once every two months, to three or 12 months.

Failings at 2 Sisters West Bromwich plant came to light following a report by the Guardian and ITV News.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee launched an inquiry into the incident and poultry standards.

People expect businesses to keep to the rules

Heather Hancock, chairman of the FSA and Ross Finnie, chair of FSS, said in the last six months the agencies have faced two serious incidents in the meat sector.

“People rightly expect food businesses to keep to the rules, rules designed to keep consumers safe and to sustain public trust in food - and food businesses have a duty to follow the regulations.

“In the light of these recent incidents, the FSA and FSS will be taking forward reviews of cutting plants and cold stores used for meat.”

In meat plants, HACCP plans focus on control measures to reduce contamination from microbiological hazards, such as Salmonella, E. coli O157 and Campylobacter, during production.

The investigation against Russell Hume is continuing and is on extended use by dates and the food safety management system in place.

It relates to non-compliance with food hygiene regulations including an allegation that ‘use by’ dates on some meat products supplied by the company have been extended.

The agencies stopped product from leaving Russell Hume’s sites after an unannounced inspection at a site in Birmingham on 12 January.

J D Wetherspoon drops Russell Hume

Distribution of meat is to outlets including Wetherspoons, Jamie Oliver, Greene King and Marston’s as well as other hospitality and catering businesses, care homes and schools.

J D Wetherspoon reintroduced sirloin, rump and gammon steak in its 900 pubs across the UK and Republic of Ireland on 30 January.

It has cancelled its contract with Russell Hume and is sourcing steaks from a range of new suppliers in Britain and Ireland.

Tim Martin, Wetherspoon chairman, said the decision to stop serving steak from 23 January despite limited information from the supplier, was the correct one.

“Steak is one of the most popular dishes on our menu, and we serve around 200,000 per week on average, about half of these on our extremely popular Tuesday Night Steak Club.

“On January 24 the FSA reported that they were thoroughly investigating Russell Hume, but also stressed that there was no indication that people had become ill from eating meat supplied by them.”

Jason Feeney, chief executive of the FSA, said it does not believe people have become ill from eating meat supplied by Russell Hume.

“We don’t take decisions to stop production, instigate product recalls or withdrawals lightly​. We have already stopped these plants producing meat products, have ensured the withdrawal and disposal of the products and now we are looking at the root cause of the incident and any culpability.

“The investigation is looking into all aspects of the business to establish more details about the serious and widespread problems that we identified. This will then determine whether additional enforcement action should be taken.”

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