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FSA summons meat industry for crisis talks

Regulators have held crisis talks with representatives of the meat industry following a spate of breaches of food hygiene regulations which culminated this week in the closure of Russell Hume.

The meat supplier fell into administration with the loss of around 270 jobs after a recall of meat products related to processes around use-by-dates caused a number of foodservice customers, including Wetherspoons and Jamie’s Italian, to terminate supply contracts.

Earlier this month, Muscle Food was forced to withdraw certain meat products supplied by DB Foods which had been labelled with incorrect use-by dates. And Fairfax Meadow voluntarily withdrew some of its meat products from catering customers after unannounced inspections revealed concerns relating to the processes the company had been using for applying use-by dates.

On Tuesday, executives from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Food Standards Scotland (FSS) met with representatives from meat industry trade bodies to discuss concerns that have been uncovered by recent regulatory inspections.

In a joint statement the participants said the discussion was “constructive and engaging with all in the meeting agreeing the need for close collaboration and co-operation between regulators and industry in responding to the issues raised by recent events”.

On 1 February, the FSA and FSS announced their intention to undertake a UK-wide review of meat cutting premises and cold stores in the wake of serious non-compliance issues identified at cutting plants operated by 2 Sisters Food Group and Russell Hume. Further details of the review will be published later this month.

Russell Hume’s administrator, KPMG, said the decision to close the business had been taken due to the significant customer attrition and trading difficulties that had followed the product recall.

In a parting shot at the FSA, Russell Hume’s directors said they felt the FSA’s response had been disproportionate to the concerns identified and claimed there was a lack of clarity in the industry on FSA guidelines.