Industry calls on FSA to consider alternative inspection

Lord Rooker, chair of the Food Standards Agency (FSA), has hinted the organisation could look at outside agencies to conduct meat inspections – after being challenged on the subject by the industry.

Speaking yesterday at the British Meat Processor’s Association (BMPA) annual conference and lunch, he responded to a plea from Stephen Rossides, director of the BMPA, to look at alternative methods of delivery by saying: “I wouldn’t dissent from that at all. I won’t say that these things aren’t being considered and won’t be considered.”

But he also warned that the organisation could not be a regulator and a provider to the industry, else it ran the risk of rebuilding the contradictions that had been in place at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF).

The indication came a day after the FSA ratified its plans to move ahead with full cost recovery from April 2012, following a board meeting in Belfast.

The initiative has been met with widespread criticism from within the industry.

The NFU said it believed the proposals would impact heavily on the competitiveness and sustainability of the red and white meat sectors, while the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW) accused the FSA of merely “tinkering round the edges”.

Speaking at the lunch, Rossides publicly told the chairman of the FSA: “Please consider alternative delivery methods. You do not have to own the people that do all this – you do not have to own the delivery machines. We aren’t asking for any compromise on food safety at all.”

Starting the conference, the BMPA’s president David Gummer had warned he thought the industry was not getting its “adequate input” on the issue of charging for meat inspections and that the FSA was an “inefficient monopoly provider”.

Also at the event, Jim Plaice, Minister of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said he believed that the FSA should implement recommendations from the MacDonald report, which said that competent meat processors should be able to source meat inspection services from accredited private-sector providers within a system managed by the competent authority.

>> Industry reacts to FSA charging proposals

>> FSA presses ahead with full cost recovery