These concerns were uncovered as the result of an unannounced audit at one site which then led to a wider investigation in the following days across all their plants and also into products held in cold stores.
Based on the evidence gathered we became concerned that there was a more systemic and widespread problem which was more serious in terms of its scale and nature. It was only at this stage issues of serious non-compliance were uncovered. These related to a number of issues including concerns about procedures and processes around use by dates. There is no indication that people have become ill from eating meat supplied by Russell Hume.
Our investigation is taking a proportionate approach based on the findings. We are working in partnership with Food Standards Scotland to do this. We are 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 have been required to stop all production at the plants and detain all products. We then worked with the company so that they could initiate a voluntary recall of all affected products. Until the business can provide assurances that they are complying with the relevant legislation and that they are producing safe food, no meat can leave their sites.
Jason Feeney, Chief Executive Officer of the Food Standards Agency 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 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.
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.
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 have not been able to demonstrate they have a sufficiently robust management system in place it is absolutely right that we have taken these appropriate actions.'