FSA revises position on streaming

Meat processors will only have to segregate cattle into two streams in lairage, instead of the three streams proposed by the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

The FSA reversed its decision after angry processors protested that the new rules introduced following the move to 48-month BSE age testing were causing chaos in abattoirs.

FSA spokesman James Healey said: "Following discussions with industry representatives, the FSA is now taking a pragmatic approach to the need for segregation of cattle in lairage. On a case by case basis, The MHS will consider whether separation at 30 months is required in the lairage of abattoirs that are either BSE-testing at 48 months or handling 30-48 month cattle that do not require BSE testing.

"It's important to recognise that cattle over 30 months of age must be identified and directed to approved cutting plants for the vertebral column specified risk material to be removed. There are a number of plants that may be slaughtering over-30-month cattle for the first time since 1996, and it is vital that there are rigorous checks in place to ensure that SRM controls are being applied correctly, as they are a key public health control. "

While the FSA believes it has come up with a solution to appease the industry, it appears that processors believe the controls are still disproportionate. Stuart Roberts, director of the British Meat Processors' Association, said that while his members were happy that the FSA had dealt with the segregation issue in lairage and it was a positive step forward, it was still only a small step. "If the FSA and ourselves had discussed this before Christmas, we would have never have been in the position we were put in."

Roberts also added that while the segregation issue was mentioned as a priority in its letter to the FSA, there were still other issues that needed to be addressed, such as the need to have a Required Method of Operation Procedure (RMOP) for material that had been risk-assessed and classified as low risk. "Some of the controls are still disproportionate and we have to look at how we can address these and go forward," he told MTJ.

Ian Anderson, executive manager for the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers, said he had made strong representations to the FSA and that this, along with the MTJ article on the issue published on the 9 January, had made FSA take action to sort the problem within a few days. "Things have settled down now that we have two streams." However, he added: "If there had been proper consultation with us, we could have avoided all this disruption and misunderstanding."