Russell Hume previously issued a statement, which said the products had been recalled and that it was a precautionary error because of mislabelling. It added that it had no reason to believe the product was unsafe to eat.
The supplier was visited by the FSA for an unannounced inspection of the supplier’s Birmingham site on 12 January where it became concerned that the company was allegedly breaching hygiene regulations.
This led the body and Food Standards Scotland to investigate all Russell Hume site and other locations where its products are stored in England, Scotland and Wales.
The FSA has said that based on the evidence it gathered, it became concerned there was a more systematic and widespread problem, which was more serious in terms of its scale and nature.
Issues of non-compliance
It added that it was only at this stage issues of non-compliance were uncovered. These related to a number of issues including concerns about procedures and processes around use-by dates.
However, it stated there was no indication that people have become ill from eating meat supplied by Russell Hume.
The FSA explained that its investigation was taking a “proportionate approach” based on its findings and was working with Food Standards Scotland to do this. It added that it was unable to provide further details, which could potentially jeopardise future enforcement action.
As a result of these further investigations, which highlighted the serious issues of non-compliance, Russell Hume has been required to stop all production at the plants and detain all products.
The FSA then worked with the company so it could initiate a voluntary recall of all affected products. The Government body said that until the business can provide assurances that it is complying with the relevant legislation and it is producing safe food, no meat can leave its sites.
Cause for concern
FSA chief executive officer Jason Feeney 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.
“We do recognise the potential impact of our decisions on business and people’s 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.
“We then looked right across the 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.
“Of course, public health remains our top priority and at no stage in the process has there been any indication that people have become ill from eating meat supplied by Russell Hume.
“This remains the case and we continue to assess the situation, working with the relevant public health bodies. As the company has not been able to demonstrate that it has a sufficiently robust management system in place, it is absolutely right that we have taken these appropriate actions.”
The Morning Advertiser contacted Russell Hume but had not received a response by the time of publication.