Meat supplier Russell Hume has blamed the actions of the Food Standards Agency (FSA) for its recent collapse, with company directors citing ‘impossible trading standards’ following the recent scandal over issues of non-compliance.

“Unfortunately, the FSA’s action created impossible trading conditions for us and, after careful reflection, we have decided the best thing for the company and its creditors is to put Russell Hume into administration,” said Russell Hume directors in a joint statement.

“We will continue to work with the FSA with regards to the issues it raised, but we still feel its action has been out of all proportion to the concerns it says it has identified. Had it worked more closely with us in the crucial early stages of the situation, then more than 300 jobs might not have been lost.”​

The directors suggested that the increase in recent industry-wide investigations points towards confusion in the meat processing industry and in the existing FSA guidelines. Company heads also emphasised Russell Hume’s spotless record, and thanked the staff for their loyalty and diligence during the years of operation.

​“They were all an integral part of our success, and we are very sorry the Russell Hume story should have ended in such a sudden and devastating way. Our thoughts today are with them and their families,” said the directors.

Russell Hume’s operations were spread across seven sites in England and Scotland, employing 302 workers. The collapse has already resulted in an estimated 266 job losses in total.

“Regrettably, with little prospect of production restarting on-site, a total of 266 people have been made redundant,” said KPMG Restucturing partners Chris Pole and Mark Orton, who are in charge of the administration proceedings.

“Our priority over the coming days will be to work with all affected employees to provide the assistance they need in claiming monies owed from the Redundancy Payments Office.”

KPMG Restructuring is currently looking for buyers for the business and to sell off its assets.

FSA response

The FSA responded to the collapse of Russell Hume, stating that the agency took proportionate measures based on many serious non-compliance issues. This resulted in a temporary shutdown at Russell Hume’s sites and a voluntary recall of meat products.

“We do not take these decisions lightly and we recognise this will be a worrying time for employees and their families. It is for food businesses to ensure the food they produce is safe and our role is to provide assurances that a business is meeting its responsibilities,” said an FSA spokesperson.

The FSA said it has been cooperating with Russell Hume to ensure the company’s food management system meets satisfactory legal requirements. On 5 February 2018, permission was granted for production to commence at the Liverpool site.

The FSA’s investigation into Russell Hume was uncovered last month after allegations of non-compliance with food hygiene regulations in one of the companies Birmingham factories. Undercover reporters from ITV and the Guardian gained access to the processing plant and gathered evidence of malpractice.

The business supplied clients such as Wetherspoon pubs, Jamie Oliver restaurants, and Greene King and Marston’s pubs.

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