Russell Hume Goes Under, About 300 Jobs Lost – The FSA Needs To Tell Us More

I’ve been fuming for days about the news last week that Russell Hume Ltd, the meat supplier to Wetherspoons who hit problems a few weeks back, has gone into administration. 266 people have been made redundant and while a buyer is being sought for the firm, there is no guarantee that many or indeed any of those people will get those jobs back.

The problems came about after inspections from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) found breaches of food hygiene regulations. The agency closed the factories down, which of course led to supply issues and ultimately to the loss of the customer base and the end of the firm.

Last week, the directors of the firm issued a statement, saying the FSA action had been “out of all proportion”. The directors said: “Unfortunately, the FSA’s action created impossible trading conditions for us ... 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 FSA previously issued a statement saying that “issues of serious non-compliance were uncovered. These related to a number of issues including concerns about procedures and processes around use-by dates. There is no indication that people have become ill from eating meat supplied by Russell Hume”.

Given that the FSA action has cost 266 people their jobs, we really need to know exactly what problems the agency found. The directors say the action was out of all proportion – the FSA say it was proportionate. It is time that independent parties were given the chance to make a judgement on that, and decide where the fault in this sad story really lies.

Remember, no-one got ill. Hume had an unblemished record for many years, and was seen as a high-quality supplier. Of course those factors don’t and shouldn’t be taken into account if the firm were committing serious breaches of regulation, and if they were, action needs to be taken against the directors of the firm. But equally, the FSA really needs to defend its action which has left so many people out of work – and claiming benefits of course with a resulting burden on the taxpayer.

We’re all for high-quality suppliers and supply chains, but we’re also in favour of transparency and openness. At the moment, we don’t have that in this case. Or perhaps KPMG, the administrators, would like to sue the FSA, then we might find out what really happened?

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