Anger at FSA plans

Meat bosses have reacted angrily to Food Standards Agency proposals to introduce full cost recovery, accusing the agency of ignoring industry views during consultation.

According to a paper to be considered by the FSA board this week, it is proposed to introduce full cost recovery of meat inspection charges in a three-year phased process.

The original plans, which attracted controversy with industry branding it over-priced and unnecessary, have been amended to offer more support to smaller businesses – the FSA said it had expanded the number of meat plants included in the ‘small business with a low throughput’ category in order to appease industry concerns.

The FSA said: “The paper proposes that the threshold for determining which businesses fall into the ‘low throughput’ category should be expanded. Meat plants falling into this category could pay reduced charges in a tiered system, depending on the volume of livestock units or meat they process.” 

However, the new plans have done little to appease industry, with one leader accusing the FSA of failing to consider the views put across during consultation on the issue.

Norman Bagley, policy director with the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers, said: “With some minor exceptions, the FSA has completely ignored the majority of the responses it received to its consultation. Despite numerous responses to the consultation saying that full cost recovery was not appropriate for controls that are not risk-based and are delivered by a monopoly supplier, the FSA proposes to go ahead.”

He said the FSA had failed to carry out an impact assesment to consider how its proposals would affect the industry and accused it of spin by not publishing the costs of equivalent services from across Europe – he said the move would see the UK paying up to three times more for meat inspection than France.

Stephen Rossides, director of the British Meat Processors, said neither the consultation or the paper to the board covered the key concerns of industry. “We don’t see, for example, why industry should have to carry the cost of historic pension liabilities. The FSA must be the regulator and enforcer, but it does not have to directly ‘own’ the people who deliver inspections. We want a thorough value-for-money review of the current delivery by the FSA, consideration of an alternative delivery model, and progress on ‘earned recognition’. The FSA is long on stakeholder engagement, but short on partnership with industry.”

In response, the FSA said: “The FSA is this week hosting Food Advisory Committee open meetings in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and four public meetings in England, hosted by board members. These provide an opportunity for industry stakeholders and consumers to give final views on the meat charging proposals, which will inform the board discussion.

“We are aware that AIMS and the BMPA will have representation at these meetings, so will have the chance to put their comments directly to the board member present. Board members have all the consultation responses available to them.”