Extra obligations are simply too much
Published:  19 May, 2006

The full text of Mr Paice's letters to David Miliband and the FSA, follow below:

Letter to David Miliband

I am extremely concerned at the situation facing traditional butchers following the measures necessary for the lifting of the beef export ban. When this was debated in SI Committee Ben Bradshaw accepted that the reduction in the age at which the vertebral column must be removed was unnecessary for public health but had to be accepted as part of the arrangement. He also accepted that the impact on traditional butchers had to be minimised.

The reality on the ground is different, to the extent that the price for 24-30 month cattle is suffering. The obligations on butchers prior to being licensed are onerous; the requirement to separate the vertebral col-umn disposal chain from that for under 24 month cattle and the absence of disposal operators are all signi? cant extra burdens.

I enclose a copy of the letter I have sent to the chairman of the FSA. I hope you will see it as a matter of urgency to get these difficulties resolved.

Letter to Deirdre Hutton, Chair, Food Standards Agency

I am very concerned at the impact on traditional butchers of the extra obligations following the reduction in the age for the obligatory removal of the vertebral column in cattle.

I appreciate that this was a necessary adjustment to achieve the lifting of the ban on beef exports, but when the issue was debated in Parliament it was clearly stated that this must not cause unnecessary extra work for domestic butchers. I welcome the decision by the FSA to allow individual butchers to remove the vertebral column but the practical reality is very different. The difficulties in obtaining licenses coupled with the problems of disposal of over 24 months material and separate hanging facilities has caused a decline in the market price for these cattle. As you will know this is an especially important age for traditional British breeds which are late maturing and in which local butchers often specialise.

It is important that the FSA inform the Meat Hygiene Service and all local licensing authorities that your objective of simplicity must be pursued. In particular the obligation to have an operating procedure must be seen to everyone to mean using a simple and standard RMOP.

Would you please ensure that simple guidance is issued urgently to all involved so that the very real concerns of butchers can be addressed.

There then remains the issue of disposal of the vertical column for post 24 month animals. Would your officials please ensure that the accepted nil risk from this material is translated into minimum extra cost. I suggest that contact be made with the Fallen Stock Company to establish whether joint operating procedures could be put in place.

The increasing public demand for local food, endorsed by public policy, is threatened by what is happening on this matter and I therefore hope you will do all you can to resolve it.