Get rid of those bad apples, says FSA boss

The bad apples within the processing sector need to be tackled if the meat industry is to move forward on hygiene controls, was the message from Food Standards Agency (FSA) boss Tim Smith.

Speaking at the BMPA conference in Oxford last week, Smith said attempting to change hygiene controls at the EU level was frustrating and would take time, but he said the sector could do more to help itself. "If the meat industry were slightly better organised and in control of those risks, it would be a better task to argue," he said. "Unfortunately we will continue to see things that are distasteful as long as that part of the industry is still there." He said no-one in the industry wants to see a "Pennington three" enquiry.

He said the FSA would be calling on industry to face the FSA board and talk about what it is doing to reduce risk and progress MHS transformation, and he said some elements would find that harder than others.

When it comes to lobbying the EU for regulatory change, the sector should be taking a more proactive role, and not just waiting for the FSA, Smith said.

"Your lobbying in EU is probably more powerful in some ways than ours is. You should be doing as much of that as you can," he added.

Smith said that what remained vital throughout all this was to ensure the consumer did not think the focus on producing safe food was slipping.

He told delegates he rejected claims the FSA "demonised" certain foods: "Those who think we've demonised bacon or cheese, check your facts. We set everything in the context of diet; we don't talk about bad foods or good foods." He said that, overall, the best approach was a collaborative relationship between industry and the FSA: "We want to work in partnership - we work best when we work together."