CCTV plan provokes FSA ire
Published:  16 December, 2011

An attempt to install CCTV in a south Wales meat plant led to Food Standards Agency (FSA) bosses threatening to withdraw services.

The move seems to fly in the face of calls by FSA chief executive Tim Smith, who has been pressing the meat industry to install CCTV, following claims by animal rights activists.

The row erupted when the Pembrokshire Meat Company, which has installed CCTV across its plant for security reasons, attempted to install a camera in an area overlooking the office used by FSA staff.

Operations manager David Mason explained: “We have had CCTV installed in our plant for about two years. We put it in for security, and because we were worried about Animal Aid breaking in. However, when we tried to put it in the FSA office they refused… At the time, senior management of the 
FSA got seriously heated about it, 
to the point where they said they would withdraw their staff.”

The FSA also originally objected to the company installing CCTV in its slaughter hall, but changed its mind after the plant suffered a break-in a couple of months ago, said Mason. “We said then we needed to have cameras in the slaughter hall for security purposes — if we had had them, we might have been able to see what happened,” he added.

However, the FSA is still refusing to allow the plant to install a camera overlooking the area of the veterinary office. “They won’t allow us to install it. They said it was of no concern to us what they do in their office,” said Mason. “Our argument with that is, ‘What have they got to hide?’”

National Assembly Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire, Paul Davies AM, has raised the issue with Steve Wearne, director of the FSA Wales on the plant’s behalf. In his response, Wearne said installing CCTV in the veterinary office would be a breach of EU regulation 853/2004, which states that the FBO must have a secure room for the “exclusive use” of the veterinary service. “The introduction of CCTV would mean that it is not exclusive,” he said.

Wearne added it was unclear what the benefits of installing CCTV in the office would be, thus failing to satisfy the Information Commissioner’s Guidance on the use of CCTV. “There is simply no legitimate reason for a CCTV camera in the veterinary office,” he said, confirming that if the plant tried to install CCTV again, the FSA would withdraw its staff.

Mason argued that the inability to install CCTV covering the whole plant compromised security and safety in case of a fire.

The FSA declined to comment further on the case.