Authorities halt production at UK meat company

by Erica Shaffer
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Food Standards
The Food Standards Agency had concerns about food hygiene compliance at Russell Hume and its storage locations. 
 
LONDON – The Food Standards Agency has stopped production at Russell Hume, a meat, game and poultry supplier in Birmingham, England, following an unannounced inspection that revealed “…instances of serious non-compliance with food hygiene regulations,” the agency reported. The FSA agency has not provided specifics on the food hygiene problems under scrutiny, however the problem is focused on use-by dates on the company’s steaks, according to local media reports.

 “There is no indication that people have become ill from eating meat supplied by Russell Hume,” FSA said in a statement. “However, we are concerned about the poor practices in place at their premises so that is why we have taken proportionate action to ensure no meat can leave their sites at present. We are continuing to assess the situation.”

Jason Feeney, CEO of the FSA explained the agency’s decision to stop production at Russell Hume, saying the decision was not taken lightly and that personnel were aware of the impact of the action on business and peoples’ livelihoods.

“In the Russell Hume case our own unannounced inspection at one site gave us some cause for concern about non-compliance with food hygiene regulations, it was not triggered by any reports of ill-health,” he said. “We then looked right across this UK-wide business and concluded that the non-compliance was serious and widespread enough to advise stopping all production at Russell Hume plants and initiate a withdrawal of products. 

“We worked with the company to get this done as quickly and effectively as possible and our actions have been proportionate based on the evidence we have obtained.”

Russell Hume customers included celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and leading pub retailers and brewers such as Greene King and Marston’s Brewery. J D Wetherspoon, owner and operator of hotels and pubs across the United Kingdom, canceled its contract with Russell Hume following news of the investigation.

In a statement, Tim Martin, Wetherspoon chairman, said “Firstly we wish to apologize to our customers for the inconvenience caused to them. However, our decision to stop serving steak from Tuesday (Jan. 23), despite limited information from the supplier, was the correct one.”

J D Wetherspoon removed sirloin steak, rump steak and gammon steak from the menus at 900 pubs across the UK and Ireland but expects to reintroduce the items after sourcing product from alternative suppliers starting Jan. 30.

On Jan. 12, the FSA in Scotland launched an investigation of all Russell Hume sites and other locations where the company’s product is stored, in England, Scotland and Wales, the agency said. But a further inquiry on Jan. 26 revealed a more “…systemic and widespread problem which was more serious in terms of its scale and nature.”

“Russell Hume were unable to demonstrate compliance with food hygiene rules at its locations, so we have stopped any product from leaving their sites until the business can provide assurances that they are complying with the relevant legislation, and that they are producing safe food,” FSA said at the time. “We have also instructed Russell Hume to undertake a withdrawal of all affected product in the supply chain.”

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