Processors demand MHS costs are frozen

Meat processors are furious at the Food Standards Agency's imposition of an 8% increase in industry charges for meat inspection and have called for these to be frozen.

Both the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW) and the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) have reacted angrily to what they term the FSA's "wholly disingenuous claim that the increase followed a 'full consultation' process'".

Both organisations said they objected strongly to the notion that the consultation had any real meaning at all and are now demanding an immediate freeze on the intended increase while the current transformation of the Meat Hygiene Service (MHS) is carried out.

"It's incredible that FSA is expecting the industry to pay an ever increasing proportion of MHS costs, especially at time when the very future of the service and its efficiency is under review," said Allan Jess, SAMW president (pictured).

"Frankly, this is an exorbitant increase for a service which has consistently failed to deliver value for money, even at the previous level of costs.

"We fully support the application of high hygiene standards, of course, to all areas of meat production and processing. Currently, however, we are being required to pay over the odds for a service which is clearly in need of change."

Jess added: "We also object strongly to being required to accept an 8% increase in costs for no increase in service quality and with no sensible discussion having taken place on either of these points. A freeze on the intended increase until such time that we have an approved and efficient Transformed MHS in place would seem to be a reasonable request for our members to make."

Stuart Roberts, director of BMPA, added: "The industry already pays in excess of £20m towards the provision of meat hygiene inspection in this country and it's completely unjustifiable to ask for even more when the service being provided is so inefficient and

outdated. A 5% real terms increase in costs when MHS is to cut costs by 18% doesn't add up.

"The FSA view that this is a step towards full cost recovery is also flawed as it ignores the public good which is delivered by the meat hygiene service. There is also an anomaly with other food businesses which are not expected to pay for environmental health or trading standards visits."