FSA perform U-turn on MHS charging

Food safety bosses have scrapped plans to introduce increases to Meat Hygiene Service (MHS) charging after running into opposition in the devolved UK authorities. However, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has confirmed the MHS will move to a system of time based charging when delivering official controls in meat plants.

The FSA board had voted for a 4% increase in the charges to processors, however it was reported that this plan met with opposition from devolved authorities, and the FSA has now performed a U-turn.

The shift to time-based charging, which will take effect from the end of September, and the lack of increase potentially mean processors could even end up cutting the cost of MHS inspection.

Tim Smith, FSA chief executive, said: “We are pleased that we have reached agreement on the move to time-based charging. That provides a good platform for the Meat Hygiene Service and DARD to continue working closely with the industry to deliver the official controls in the most efficient way.

“It was clear from our discussions with Ministers that there was concern about the introduction of a 4% increase and so there will be no increase in charges at this time.”

The news was welcomed by the processors. Phil Hambling, from the British Meat Processors Association, said: ““The decision to suspend any increase in charges is very welcome at this difficult time for the processing sector.

“Credit has to be given to the FSA for listening carefully to Industry during the consultation process.”

He said the opportunity was now there for the sector to reduce costs: “The Business Agreement is the key tool through which Food Business Operators (FBO) can reduce their MHS expenditure and the focus for FBOs and MHS in the coming months should be to work together and focus on efficiencies in plant.

“It is now vital that the FSA keep behind the pace of reform and develop a smarter meat inspection regime that will improve safety and remove the inherited inefficiencies that hinder MHS and Operators.”