Meat safety scare firm Russell Hume collapses with 266 jobs lost

(c) Sky News 2018: <a href="">Meat safety scare firm Russell Hume collapses with 266 jobs lost</a>

Meat supplier Russell Hume has collapsed into administration, weeks after the company suffered a food safety scare.

Administrators have announced that 266 staff have been made redundant at the Derby-based firm, which lost several major contracts last month after inspectors said they had uncovered "serious non-compliance" with food hygiene regulations.

All production was halted - with pub giant Wetherspoon cancelling its contract after being forced to take sirloin, rump and gammon steak off the menu because of a "mislabelling issue".

Jamie's Italian and Hilton Hotels were other high-profile clients to pull their business amid a mass recall of products.

The scare left a nasty taste in the mouth of Russell Hume's directors, who said on Monday that the Food Standards Agency's investigation "created impossible trading conditions for us".

Their statement added: "After careful reflection we have decided the best thing for the company and its creditors is to put Russell Hume into administration.

"This decision has been heartbreaking.

"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 may not have been lost.

"The fact that its investigations have become industry wide and a number of other firms have also had issues strongly suggests there is a lack of clarity in the industry and in current FSA guidelines.

"Prior to this, we had a long, unblemished record for supplying quality meat products. We would like to thank our customers for their support, but above all our loyal and hard-working staff, some of whom have been with us a great many years.

"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."

The FSA said its investigation was continuing.

Joint administrator Chris Pole said: "The recent product recall and halt in operations has caused significant customer attrition and trading difficulties, which in turn has led the directors to take the decision to place the company into administration.

"Regrettably, with little prospect of production restarting on site, a total of 266 people have been made redundant.

"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.

"We will also be seeking buyers for the business and its assets. Any interested parties are advised to contact us as soon as possible."

Unison said there was a "crisis" in the food inspection regime and the FSA needed more inspectors.

The union's head of local government, Heather Wakefield, said: "There must be a permanent inspection presence in every meat cutting plant, to prevent a culture of complacency in food hygiene."