FSA announces principles for future meat controls

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has laid down the key principles for establishing the future meat controls programme, which, once agreed with ministers, will form the basis of the UK position in EU negotiations to modernise meat controls across the EU.

Since 2009, food standard bosses have worked towards modernisation in the official controls on meat, with the aim of delivering more risk-based, proportionate hygiene controls in slaughterhouses.

Official controls on meat are prescribed by European regulations which are directly applicable to all member states. The European Commission started discussions on potential changes to the system in 2010, but any changes have to be negotiated with other member states and the European Parliament.  

The FSA’s suggestions, which have been prepared in collaboration with key government departments, include:
i). Official control tasks only to be mandated in regulation if there is clear evidence that they protect and as a minimum maintain existing levels of protection for public health, animal health and animal welfare;
ii). A shift of the official role from inspection to verification where this is appropriate to the level of risk;
iii). More responsibility taken by the food business operator (FBO) for  public health, animal health and animal welfare, with FBOs held accountable for their actions;
iv). An enforcement regime that provides incentives for food business operators who comply with the rules and punitive actions on non-compliant food business operators who present the greatest risk to public health, animal health or animal welfare.  

It has also announced a second tranche of research to gather further information to support a change in meat inspections. The projects include an evaluation of food chain information and collection and communication of inspection results for all species; a trial of visual inspection of outdoor pigs; and a qualitative risk assessment of visual inspection of red meat species and farmed/wild large game. In addition, social science research will investigate the social processes in place within slaughterhouses and ensure that proposed changes to the current system are based on a knowledge of the ’on the ground’ situation.

The first wave of research was completed in June 2011.

>FSA announces research into modernising meat controls