ITV News has new details on events leading to the closure of one of Britain biggest meat companies.
Russell Hume supplied some of the UK’s best known pub, hotel and restaurant chains including Wetherspoons, Jamie’s Italian and Hilton. None of them had any idea of the problems. All have now switched supplies.
Now an insider has told ITV News of his concerns that hygiene rules were being broken.
Geoff Haines worked at Russell Hume’s Birmingham site for around five years.
He described the events of January 12th, when a food official inspected, catching management by surprise.
“They were running round praying they did not go in the fridges, but that’s exactly what she did,” Haines said.
“The first pallet she looked at was out of date. Its scary to know people are eating this not knowing and paying good money for it.”
Officials are now investigating whether reports of meat being out of date are accurate.
It’s proving complex, because firms use a baffling array of processing, freezing and storage dates. Many in this industry want clarification of the rules.
Mr Haines said he had little faith in its hygiene procedures.
“I have had to open the meat and take the original date out and then send it to the packer,” he said. “They pack it and relabel it. There was a lot of out of date meat – a hell of a lot”
ITV News has spoken to more than a dozen former Russell Hume workers from a number of its six sites.
“Sometimes I would sell meat past its sell by date..repack and label meat so it looked like it was in date,” one said.
Another added: “I had to speak to management about out of date meat. They would smell the meat and tell me to proceed with re-labelling it”.
Former workers have also sent us photos. Some say that meat trays were sometimes so filthy they had maggots. Other photos appear to show how meat was sometimes left in yards, where it is claimed that seagulls became a big problem.
One Russell Hume worker, speaking to us anonymously, said it was right to close the company, even though he lost his job – along with around 300 others.
“In hindsight they should have shut us down because it’s wrong, its false. They should abide by the law and give the customer meat that’s in date”.
Although the Food Standard Agency says there’s been serious hygiene breaches, there is no evidence of risk to public health or any illness.
Russell Hume’s former directors say they provided top quality reputable products with consistently good customer feedback.
Officials and the company say it is inappropriate to comment further due to an on-going investigation.