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Major review of meat industry after serious failings found

The probe comes as an investigation into meat supplier Russell Hume intensifies.

Meat: Production halted at some plants.
Meat: Production halted at some plants. NealeA

There will be an industry-wide review of meat cutting plants across the UK after food standards watchdogs found serious failings at two large firms.

Food Standards Scotland (FSS) and its counterpart in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will review all cold store and meat cutting plants, where meat is butchered wholesale before being prepared for food.

It is understood every meat cutting plant in the UK will be inspected in the review, which launches later in February.

In January, a major recall was ordered for meat from supplier Russell Hume after concerns were raised over extended "use by" dates and food safety practices.

Production was halted at the plant's firms, including one in Inverkeithing, Fife and an investigation was launched.

The recall led to Wetherspoons being forced to remove meat from its menu on Tuesday last week, the pub chain's Steak Club night.

'People rightly expect food businesses to keep to the rules, rules designed to keep consumers safe and to sustain public trust in food.'
Ross Finnie, FSS

FSS has now revealed their investigation into Russell Hume has led to wider concerns about the meat cutting industry.

The watchdog has also said "serious non-compliance issues" were found at another producer, the 2 Sisters Food Group.

Ross Finnie, chair of FSS, said: "In the last six months the Food Standards Agency and FSS have faced two serious incidents involving major players in the meat sector.

"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.

"In the light of these recent incidents, the FSA and FSS will be taking forward reviews of cutting plants and cold stores used for meat.

"Further details will be published later this month and the results will be fully available to the public."

Meat cutting plants are wholesale butchery establishments where meat is cut and boned out of carcasses.

They are separate from slaughterhouses, which require daily veterinary control.

'Our investigation into the major non-compliances we found at the Russell Hume plants in England and Scotland is intensifying.'
Geoff Ogle, FSS

Cutting plants are currently monitored by periodical unannounced visits.

FSS also said its probe into Russell Hume was "intensifying".

The watchdog's chief executive Geoff Ogle said: "Our investigation into the major non-compliances we found at the Russell Hume plants in England and Scotland is intensifying.

"We have already stopped these plants producing meat products, have ensured the withdrawal and disposal of the products and now we are looking at the root cause of the incident and any culpability.

"The investigation is looking into all aspects of the business to establish more details about the serious and widespread problems that we identified."

He continued: "This will then determine whether additional enforcement action should be taken.

"Therefore we will be unable to make any further comments on the detail of the investigation.

"It remains the case that there is no indication that people have become ill from eating meat supplied by Russell Hume and we continue to assess the situation working with the relevant public health bodies."

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