Anger at FSA board response

Meat industry leaders have reacted with anger to the decision by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) board to reject proposals to consider a privatised system of third-party inspection.

The board was asked to look at proposals made by the Macdonald Farming Regulation Task Force Report, which suggested setting up a group to consider introducing independent control bodies. However, the board has now asked the FSA executive to report back in September on the evidence and issues as to whether such a system could work.

The news has caused anger among processing groups. Norman Bagley, policy director with the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers, said: “The FSA claims to be evidence- and science-based, but its executive provided neither. Why didn’t the FSA scientists present correct the board when it suggested control bodies would be a risk to public health?

“They just sat there knowing that, in the public health scheme of things, meat inspection in abattoirs is of minor importance compared with much higher risks further down the food chain, where the FSA has least influence. When it comes to protecting its monopoly, the FSA is happy to forget its principles. It is not the agency it was set up to be.”

Ian Anderson, chief executive of the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers, said: “The FSA board once again showed its lack of understanding of the meat industry and its desire for reforming meat inspection and achieving a more proportionate regulatory regime.

“It was not explained to the board that only responsibility for inspection tasks would be delegated to third-party bodies. The boards comments on meat inspection and Richard Macdonald’s report were negative and seemingly intended to try and discredit both the industry and Mr Macdonald.”

A spokesman for the FSA said: “The board had a full discussion on issues for the FSA coming out of the MacDonald Report and in particular the control body suggestion. The board asked a number of pertinent questions of the executive and these were answered fully by FSA officials. We believe that the agency - including board and executive - have a complete grasp of the subject.”