The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) and its counterpart Food Standards Scotland announced last month that they will launch a nationwide review of meat-cutting and cold storage facilities after “serious non-compliance issues” were uncovered at suppliers Russell Hume and 2 Sisters Food Group.
In a joint statement issued today (2 March), the agencies said that the aim of their investigations is to boost confidence in the UK meat industry’s methods and regulation.
“We are concerned about recent instances of companies breaching hygiene rules. 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,” Jason Feeney and Geoff Ogle, chief executives of the Food Standards Agency and Food Standards Scotland respectively, jointly commented.
Last month, UK beef processor Russell Hume was forced into administration after unannounced inspections by the FSA uncovered issues relating to “procedures and processes” over sell by date labelling. This sparked a recall that impacted high-profile customers including Wetherspoons and Jamie Oliver restaurants.
Midlands-based poultry processor 2 Sisters Food Group initially under scrutiny last year amid allegations of tampering with slaughter-date labels and failings in food hygiene standards. This led to a public enquiry.
More recently, UK meat supplier Fairfax Meadow withdrew some of its products following inspections by the FSA, which have also hit DB Foods, a meat supplier to Muscle Food.
The fresh review aims to improve ways of identifying non-compliance issues and their ability to take prompt action to minimise the risks to public health, the agencies said this afternoon.
The review will take in cutting plants for both white and red meat, as well as game. It will encompass hygiene controls, and will include unannounced inspections and audits.
Other areas of focus include: “How the current legislation works and the guidance supporting it; how the 'official controls' are carried out which must be followed to ensure compliance with hygiene legislative requirements (this includes audits, inspections, sampling and surveillance); the roles and responsibilities of food businesses, regulators and assurance bodies; and how incidents are managed and responded to."
A spokesperson for the FSA confirmed that the investigation has already started gathering evidence. The initial results will be issued in June, the food safety watchdogs said.
The FSA also plans to work with the industry to install CCTV at cutting plants, increase intelligence gathering by sharing audit data across industry bodies, and improve awareness of the circumstances that can result in non-compliance.