Thought leadership

The meat recall affecting UK restaurant chains centres on use-by-dates, officials say. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) said it had stopped any meat leaving supplier Russell Hume’s sites due to “processes around use-by-dates”.

Russell Hume said that none of its products had caused illness and the recall was a “precautionary measure because of mislabelling”.

Affected meat was cut from Wetherspoons and Jamie’s Italian menus this week.

Wetherspoons has now cancelled its contract with the supplier and on Friday criticised the lack of information coming from Russell Hume on the food safety issue.

Eddie Gershon, a spokesman for the pub chain, told the BBC: “Russell Hume have not been forthcoming whatsoever in letting us know what’s going on and now, 72 hours later, the only information we have is coming from the FSA.”

Wetherspoons chairman Tim Martin apologised to customers affected. “Firstly we wish to apologise to our customers for the inconvenience caused to them,” he said.

“However, our decision to stop serving steak from Tuesday January 23, despite limited information from the supplier, was the correct one.”

Derby-based Russell Hume’s customers also include schools and care homes, as well as hospitality brands such as Greene King and Hilton Hotels.

Food safety

In an update on Friday, FSA chief executive Jason Feeney said he recognised the impact of its investigation on businesses.

He added: “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.”

The FSA said it could not give further details about the probe as it could “jeopardise future enforcement action”.

Meat cut

On Wednesday, the agency said it had found instances of “serious non-compliance” with food hygiene regulations across Russell Hume’s business.

The FSA said it had stopped any meat leaving Russell Hume company sites and unused meat had been withdrawn from its customers.

But it did not specify what its concerns were from a site visit held 12 days before. The shopping channel QVC said it was refunding customers who bought Green Seasons meat products, which are supplied by Russell Hume.

Around 18 Marston’s pubs also stopped using meat from the supplier.

Bourne Leisure, which own Butlin’s, Haven and Warner Leisure Hotels, said it had also used Russell Hume, but had switched to a different supplier for now.

Russell Hume has criticised the way the FSA has handled the investigation.

“Our customers are at the heart of our business and there has never been a suggestion of any Russell Hume-supplied product causing illness,” the firm said in a statement.

The FSA’s actions have “unfortunately” created a “very different impression”, it said. “Russell Hume is a business of 50-years standing and an unblemished record,” it added.

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