25 January 2018

What happened?

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has announced that it has stopped products leaving sites run by Russell Hume, a major meat and poultry processing business, following “instances of serious non-compliance with food hygiene regulations”. It has also required Russell Hume to withdraw existing products from the market.

Russell Hume supplies a range of hospitality and catering businesses with meat and poultry products, including 900 Wetherspoons pubs, as well as schools and care homes. Wetherspoons announced yesterday that they were withdrawing steak from their menu due to ‘quality issues’.

Action was taken by the FSA following an unannounced investigation of Russell Hume’s Birmingham site, where food safety breaches were allegedly found. Further investigations revealed alleged non-compliance at other sites, leading to the closure of all their sites across England, Wales and Scotland.

This announcement follows action taken by the FSA in recent months against the major poultry processor ‘2 Sisters’ for alleged breaches of food safety regulations.

The impact on food businesses and consumers

Incidents such as these raise a number of questions for food businesses and consumers about the safety and provenance of the food they are buying. Food businesses will of course be keen to ensure that they are able to obtain compensation for lost sales and any adverse impact on their reputation due to safety breaches by suppliers.

Food businesses and other organisations along the supply chain will surely also be raising questions about how they can ensure incidents like this do not arise again and how they can guarantee to consumers that the food they are providing is safe to eat.

Food processing and manufacturing businesses complain that they face endless rounds of audits but something is clearly wrong if none of the audits are picking up the sort of food safety incidents and lack of training that have seemingly been found by the FSA in recent months. It begs the question how useful any of these processes are and, with the FSA proposing a reduction in investigations and audits for large businesses with supposedly sophisticated systems in place, the guarantee of future compliance with food safety regulations looks increasingly problematic.

Key contact

Helen Scott-Lawler

Helen Scott-Lawler Partner

  • Head of Food and Drink
  • Commercial
  • Intellectual Property and Media

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