Open letter to the FSA by Peter Hewson

It is two years since I retired from the Food Standards Agency. My main interest during my eight years there was to try to get outdated and ineffective meat hygiene controls that did not address current food safety problems replaced by measures that would be more effective and affordable. In essence we were working towards treating fresh meat like other foods, including high-risk foods such as ready-to-eat meat products, and giving food business operators (FBOs) full responsibility for production.

This was not to be self-regulation as operators' controls would be subject to robust audit by the competent authority. It would, however, allow quality control, which is really what meat inspection is, to be carried out cost-effectively.

The FSA board was right behind this. In discussions on Geoff Tierney's Review of Models for Delivering Official Controls, the board strongly supported FBOs having responsibility for meat inspection. The board minutes say: "It was essential that this option (FBOs carrying out meat inspection) was kept open as our long-term preferred model (for delivering controls)."

So I was astonished to hear Tim Smith, CEO of the FSA, recently say on Radio 4's You and Yours that he would not want his family to eat meat that had not been inspected by a government employee. Has FSA policy changed without discussion in public? Or was Tim just giving a personal view?


Peter Hewson

Botvyle Consultants