The FSA was responding to news after the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and The Guardian revealed that more than half of meat processing and cold storage facilities have had at least one “major breach” of food safety and hygiene in the last three years.
The analyses of the FSA figures, the joint investigation said, revealed that multiple inspections took place at 890 individual premises and inspectors found that 540 of them, or 60.5% had at least one major breach.
It also revealed that there were 2,600 “major” non-compliances relating to food safety and hygiene regulations during audits between 2014 to 2017.
A major breach according to the FSA was likely to compromise public health “including food safety... or may lead to the production and handling of unsafe or unsuitable food if no remedial action is taken”.
The investigation also found that the meat supplier Russell Hume, which went into administration following a probe by the FSA into allegations of non-compliance with food hygiene regulations, had been marked down for 25 major breaches of regulations over the last three years. These included maintaining legal temperature controls, minimising or preventing cross contamination, ensuring standards of environmental hygiene and monitoring food safety systems.
The analyses of the data also said that amongst the overall number of failings identified by FSA auditors during this period were more than 200 major non-compliances relating to maintaining legal temperature controls, and in excess of 300 relating to minimising the risk of cross-contamination.
Thousands of audits
“We carry out thousands of audits and unannounced inspections of meat plants each year to verify the food hygiene standards are being met,” a FSA spokesman said.
“Issues which may pose imminent or serious risk to public health will result in immediate and robust enforcement action being taken.
“Each audit assesses almost 50 different hygiene criteria and a single issue can result in multiple major and minor non-compliances being recorded.”
However, the FSA added that only 2% of plants were found to have more than two major non-compliances and the majority had none at all.
“Where major non-compliances are found follow up audits and unannounced inspections will increase to ensure the issues found have been resolved,” the spokesman said.