Meat Cutting Plants and Cold Store Facilities in the UK to be Reassessed

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Using cold stores to ensure fresh food is kept at the correct temperature during the manufacturing process is crucial to the quality of the product that reaches our dinner table.

There are many processes involved in food production and the hygiene of cold stores at every stage of the operation must be properly maintained to complete procedures safely and efficiently.

The consequences of not maintaining suitable hygiene practices for fresh foods are serious. Not only are there hefty punishments for breaking food safety laws but failing to meet safety standards can also cause outbreaks of food poisoning and in more serious cases, even death.

Poor hygiene procedures can affect customers and businesses, and as a result of high-profile cases of serious non-compliance reported recently in the media, watchdog the Food Standards Agency is launching an industry-wide review of meat cutting plants and cold stores.

Announced in February, the review follows serious non-compliance incidents in the past six months involving two major businesses in the meat sector. It will be carried out by the FSA and its sister organisation, Food Standards Scotland.

Consumers rightly expect food businesses to adhere to the rules that are put in place to keep them safe. The legislation is designed to sustain people’s trust in the food production industry, leaving them safe in the knowledge that businesses have a duty to follow the rules.

In light of the fact there have been two recent incidents, the FSA and the FSS are beginning reviews of cutting plants and cold stores in the meat sector. When the reviews have been completed, the results will be made available to the public.

Legislation applies to cutting plants, slaughterhouses and game handling establishments, all of which must be approved by the FSA in England, Northern Ireland and Wales and by the FSS in Scotland.

Cutting plants are wholesale butchery establishments that cut meat and bone the carcasses. They are inspected by the FSA, the FSS or the local authority at periodic unannounced visits.

In addition to the review of meat cutting plants and cold store facilities, the investigation into the incidents of non-compliance is ongoing. The investigation includes the extended use of “use by” dates on fresh food products and the general food safety management systems in place.

The plants under investigation have been suspended from producing meat products and the products already produced have been withdrawn and disposed of. The FSA and FSS are now looking to establish the root cause of the problems and where culpability lies.

These incidents have been described as “serious and widespread” and the investigation is focusing on all aspects of the business, to understand more details of the issues identified. Depending on the outcome of the investigations, additional enforcement action may be taken.

To date, the FSA has confirmed there is no evidence that anyone has become ill from eating any of the meat from the plants under investigation. However, the situation is continually being assessed in liaison with the relevant public health bodies.

Any business in the food manufacturing industry that breaks the food safety laws can expect to suffer stiff penalties, with hefty fines and jail sentences possible for serious offenders.

1COLD specialises in the design, project management and construction of hygienic, temperature-controlled environments. Our solutions for food safety include cold rooms, industrial chillers and cold stores for the food and drinks industry.

Please contact us for further details of our range of products and services.