The Food Standards Agency and Food Standards Scotland are today publishing details of a major review into the sites where meat products are processed and stored in the UK.

Food Standards Scotland and Food Standards Agency announce:

  • Launch of comprehensive review of hygiene controls
  • Review includes unannounced inspections and audit regimes
  • Food Standards Agency announce:
  • Work with industry to implement CCTV across cutting plants
  • Increased intelligence gathering through audit data sharing pilots across industry
  • Improved insight into circumstances and factors leading to non-compliances and ability to anticipate them

Announcement in detail:

Also published today is the FSA’s update to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee’s inquiry into standards in poultry processing and the findings of the FSA’s investigation into 2 Sisters Food Group.

Jason Feeney and Geoff Ogle, Chief Executives of the Food Standards Agency and Food Standards Scotland respectively, jointly commented:

“We are concerned about recent instances of companies breaching hygiene rules. People rightly expect food businesses to keep to the rules, rules designed to keep consumers safe and to sustain public trust in food - and food businesses have a duty to follow the regulations. Our review will be far reaching and thorough and we will announce our initial findings in June.”

“We are pleased that the meat industry representatives who we met with have pledged their full and effective engagement with the review.”

The review being launched today will aim to:

  • Increase public and stakeholder confidence in the meat industry and its regulation
  • Improve the ability to identify non-compliance and take prompt action to minimise the risk to public health and food safety
  • Assess how the industry currently operates across the whole supply chain.
  • Increase awareness of circumstances and factors which can lead to non-compliance
  • The scope of the review will incorporate:
  • All types of cutting plants (red meat, white meat and game)
  • How the current legislation works and the guidance supporting it
  • How the ‘official controls’ are carried out which must be followed to ensure compliance with hygiene legislative requirements (this includes audits, inspections, sampling and surveillance)
  • The roles and responsibilities of food businesses, regulators and assurance bodies
  • How incidents are managed and responded to

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee inquiry and findings from 2 Sisters Food Group investigation

Assurance bodies, 2 Sisters Food Group and the FSA have also responded to recommendations made by the Parliamentary inquiry into poultry cutting plants. We have also published the outcome of FSA’s investigation into allegations of food hygiene and standards breaches at 2 Sisters.

In response to the inquiry the FSA will work with industry on a voluntary protocol for adoption of CCTV in meat processing plants and will consult on legislating to implement them if necessary.

FSA will also be running pilots to improve data and intelligence sharing across the industry and is pursuing increased investigatory powers for the National Food Crime Unit.

The investigation into 2 Sisters Food Group has been extensive and thorough and looked across their poultry sites.

500 hours of CCTV from the site were examined along with audit information from major retailers. The company voluntarily ceased production at one site whilst changes were made and staff re-trained. The FSA have had a permanent presence at their cutting plants for the last four months.

Jason Feeney, Chief Executive of the Food Standards Agency said:

“Our investigation found some areas for improvement but the issues were resolved promptly by the company, who co-operated fully, and at no point did we find it necessary to take formal enforcement action.”

“The business has made a wide range of improvements across all their sites to improve processes. They are already publishing the outcomes of all their audits and are in the process of installing high quality CCTV across their estate that we will have full access to. These are measures we would like the whole industry to adopt.”


Article source:

A major supplier of meat to schools, care homes and retail chains including Wetherspoon’s and the Jamie Oliver Group is under suspicion of serious food safety offences after all its meat supplies were recalled earlier this week.

Suspected breaches of hygiene and labelling regulations were initially discovered on 12 January following an unannounced inspection of Russell Hume’s Birmingham plant.

Russell Hume is a Derby-based meat supplier with seven sites across the UK describing itself as ‘one of the UK’s leading meat specialists providing’. The company had a turnover £129 million in 2015.

It was nine days after the initial inspection that the FSA placed a stop on any meat leaving any Russell Hume plant and asked for all unused meat supplied by the firm to be withdrawn from outlets, including hospitality and catering businesses, care homes and schools.

In a statement the FSA said: ‘Following an unannounced inspection of Russell Hume’s Birmingham site on 12 January, we became aware of instances of serious non-compliance with food hygiene regulations.

‘This has led us and Food Standards Scotland to investigate all Russell Hume sites, and other locations where their product is stored, in England, Scotland and Wales. 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.’

The delay between the FSA discovering a problem at the firm’s Birmingham plant and the withdrawal of the suspect meat has raised questions around how events unfolded.

Signs that there was something wrong first started to appear when social media went onto ferment after Wetherspoon’s withdrew all its steaks nationally on Tuesday night, which just happened to be the pub chains ‘steak night’.

‘It is essential that the FSA provides clarification about what exactly has happened at Russsell Hume,’ said Tony Lewis, CIEH head of policy. ‘As the statements made by the respective parties simply do not add up.

‘Russell Hume has been under investigation for 12 days, and the public will want to know what breaches of the food hygiene regulations are they talking about, what action have they taken and can the FSA guarantee that no unsafe meat has entered the food chain from this source?’

The FSA must put consumers first and properly explain the situation. The public needs to know the full range of products affected and teh extent of distribution across the UK,' added Mr Lewis.

Russel Hume is proving difficult to contact while its website went offline yesterday. However, it did release a press statement to ITV reporters on Wednesday.

It states the actions of the FSA had ‘come as a serious shock’. It adds the company was ‘well aware of the strict controls over the sale and supply of food’ and that it has had regular FSA and other agency visits and audits where their ‘practices and compliance have never been challenged like this... there has never been a suggestion of any Russell Hume-supplied product causing illness.

‘Unfortunately, the FSA actions and its notice have created a very different impression.’ The company also says it is cooperating fully with the FSA, but cannot comment on the investigations since they are ongoing.

The FSA statement also confirms that ‘there is no indication that people have become ill from eating meat supplied by Russell Hume’.

The FSA goes on to say: ‘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.’

Outlets impacted by the effective shut down of Russel Hume have found new suppliers. The firms supplied by the firm include: Wetherspoon’s, Jamie’s Italian, Tiger Tiger, Marston’s pubs, and Butlins.

Following the 2Sisters investigation this is the second food safety incident involving a major supplier in as many months.

‘These incidents demonstrate the importance of robust, regular and unannounced, inspections of these kind of establishments by competent environmental health professionals.’

An FSA spokesperson told EHN the agency is unable to comment beyond its released statement as it may prejudice the investigation.

HSE food manufacturing inspections target the causes of workplace ill-health

Companies and people working in food manufacturing are being told they must pay closer attention to how they manage workplace health risks or face serious penalties.

The Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) programme of proactive inspections will review health and safety standards in food manufacturing businesses across the country, and the sector is being warned that a programme of unannounced inspections will begin today.

The inspections will focus on two of the main causes of ill-health in the sector which are currently occupational asthma from exposure to flour dust in bakeries, cake and biscuit manufacturers and grain mills and musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) – predominantly lower back pain and upper limb disorders from manual handling activities and repetitive tasks across the sector.

The inspection visits come as HSE recently released its Manufacturing sector plan which prioritises the reduction of cases of occupational lung disease and MSDs.

Exposure to flour dust is the UK’s second most common cited cause of occupational asthma. MSDs are the most common type of work-related illness in food manufacturing with handling injuries, accounting for around 20% of reported employee injuries (RIDDOR). HSE insists that such ill-health can be prevented when organisations have proper risk control systems in place.

The inspections will ensure measures are being taken by those responsible to protect workers against health risks and HSE will not hesitate to use enforcement to bring about improvements.

HSE’s head of Manufacturing Sector John Rowe, said: “The food manufacturing sector is made up of over 300,000 workers and its health and safety record needs to improve. This inspection initiative will look to ensure effective management and control of targeted health risks.

HSE is calling on anyone working in the industry to take the time to refresh their knowledge of our advice and guidance, available for free on our website.

Food manufacturing companies should do the right thing by protecting workers’ health; everyone has the right to go home healthy from work.”



A single food safety assurance scheme that everyone can join in with was called for by Lisa Ackerley, visiting professor of environmental health at the University of Salford, at the CIEH safe food conference.

Proposing a radically simplified national scheme, she said: ‘Businesses don’t want someone going in and waving a great big stick and then someone else going in and doing a “good cop bad cop” thing, so the visit they get, whether it’s from a local authority or a private sector auditor, needs to help them to get the place where they need to be.’

She said that her proposed not-for-profit scheme, covering the catering sector only, would involve a centrally-held database. Local authorities would be able to view relevant parts of the database, but, because it was not held in the public domain, it would not be subject to freedom of information requests: ‘Businesses do not want all of this data, which has previously been private, being requested by the Daily Mail.’

The central body holding the database would work with stakeholders to set standards and competencies for auditors, including training requirements. But she stressed: ‘We don’t want to put too many barriers up or to make this too expensive.’ It would not be compulsory for auditors to join the scheme.

She reassured her audience: ‘I want to reassure you that this is absolutely not about stealing EHOs jobs.’ Under the new system, she said, local authorities would still be responsible for enforcement activity, including awarding food hygiene ratings and re-ratings. But, in some cases, it would be informed by data from external auditors.

She said: ‘Local authorities would be doing exactly as they were before, but they would have access to a lot more information from more sources and they would be able to consider it as part of the whole picture in relation to food businesses.

’The new paid-for service would be based on the British Hospitality Association’s Catering Guide, with reference to Annex 5 Food Standard’s Agency’s food law code of practice. She argued that it would simply regularise what is already happening in the marketplace, with businesses receiving advice, guidance and coaching from many bodies but that it would give added value and public reassurance to the businesses signing up.

Small businesses that do not currently receive many inspections from EHOs would benefit.

Giving the example of Salsa as an effective existing accreditation scheme, she said: ‘we want to make sure that the scheme is not difficult or expensive for anyone to join, that it would have transparent governance and that it would enjoy the trust of consumers and local authorities.’

Tony Lewis, CIEH head of policy, has appeared on BBC breakfast time TV calling for the mandatory display of food hygiene rating scheme (FHRS) scores in England. 

Under FHRS, food businesses, including restaurants and takeaways, are awarded a hygiene score of from zero to five based on an inspection by local authority EHOs. The rating takes into account structure, hygiene practices and confidence in management. Display of the score became mandatory in Wales in 2013 and in Northern Ireland last year.

Calling for a ‘level playing feld’, both between England and the devolved nations and within England itself, Mr Lewis told the programme that the present situation is unsatisfactory. He said: ‘We know that the scores incentivise businesses to improve their performance and that they are liked and relied upon by the public. It’s wholly inconsistent that the same system does not apply the across the whole country.
‘The Food Standards Agency’s “regulating our future” programme along with changes that will inevitably follow post-Brexit presents us with a good opportunity to put this right. With the FSA, CIEH, Which? and the Local Government Association now all agreeing that England is losing out and calling for change, the momentum behind this is becoming unstoppable. It’s time for the government to act.’

The FSA has made public its calls on ministers to make display of FHRS scores a legal requirement in England. In 2015, the agency presented research to government providing robust evidence that FHRS had resulted in significantly increased business compliance with food safety. It argued: ‘the scheme is driving up standards. It is currently the best proxy measure for public health protection.’

In its plan ‘regulating our future’, the FSA states: ‘Strengthening FHRS is a key goal, including ensuring that it is sustainable and that there is mandatory display legislation in England.’

A survey carried out by consumer organization Which? in 2013 found that 95 per cent of people thought that hygiene ratings should be clearly displayed on food businesses’ windows or doors. A Which spokesperson said: ‘The scheme has the potential to raise levels of compliance across business but while display remains voluntary for food businesses, it will be largely the better performers that display this information, rather than those that present the greatest risk to consumers.

Earlier in the week, the Local Government Association had added its weight to the calls. Simon Blackburn, chair of the LGA’s safer and stronger communities board said: ‘The post-Brexit review of EU laws gives the government choices. With mandatory hygiene rating display already in force in Wales and Northern Ireland, the UK leaving the EU provides a crucial opportunity to toughen up food safety laws by extending the legislation to England.’

According to the FSA, there are more than 500,000 cases of food poisoning a year from known pathogens. Campylobacter is the most common foodborne pathogen, making more than half of cases. The next most common is Clostridium perfringens. Salmonella is the pathogen that causes the most hospital admission. Poultry meat is the food linked to the most cases of food poisoning.

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