Meat inspection consultation launched

By George Reynolds

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Fsa Food standards agency

The UK food regulator is asking for feedback on proposals to change
meat inspections, including charging processors for services and
delegating duties to private bodies.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is asking for opinions as part of a review to find how the Meat Hygiene Service (MHS) can become more efficient. The meat industry is more heavily regulated in the UK than the rest of the food industry and current meat hygiene controls cost the British tax payer about £30m (€44m) per year, according to the FSA. One proposal favoured by the regulator is to create a "transformed" MHS, which would be required to reduce costs, improve productivity and build more effective partnerships with industry. The board report also proposed the development of principles for a new charging and cost-sharing structure. The structure would progressively move towards full recovery from the industry, with the aim to reduce the current FSA subsidy to the MHS. Another proposal favoured by the board was for the FSA to delegate official controls to the private sector. Under EU regulations, the FSA is permitted to select and accredit control bodies and manage them by contract and service level agreements, including removing their accreditation where necessary. The independent control bodies, whether private, public or voluntary, would employ the vets and inspectors. They would also offer to provide official controls to the plants, perhaps alongside other services, the report suggests. This option is likely to be favoured by industry, however, public opinion could oppose a measure seen as move towards self-regulation. For smaller meat processors, local authorities may take on more responsibility if favoured proposals are implemented at the final stage of the review. While the FSA is testing the industry and public reaction to its preferred options, the regulator is also seeking feedback on wider inspections issues. Opinions being sought include how the FSA could audit meat plants, veterinarians and inspectors and whether a single national method of delivery of services is preferable to regional approach. While any general principles that emerge could apply across the UK, the inspection service in Northern Ireland, currently contracted to the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, will not be subject to any proposed changes. Further feedback is being requested on what concerns exist over meat safety and whether the government is doing enough to promote the safety of meat to consumers and how more could be done. The FSA is accepting feedback until the 11 April 2007. The feedback form can be downloaded via the FSA website. The final report, with recommendations on the way forward, will be presented to the FSA Board in July 2007.

Related topics Food Safety & Quality

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