Food Law News - UK - 2010

FSA News Item, 16 March 2010

HYGIENE - The future for meat hygiene controls

The Food Standards Agency has started a programme of work to review the current system of regulation of meat hygiene inspection activities and enforcement (known as 'meat official controls').

This work is aimed at improving public health protection while delivering a more risk-based, effective and proportionate system for meat official controls. As well as consumer protection, proposals for a new inspection regime will take account of animal health and welfare considerations.

The current system of meat official controls, particularly post-mortem inspection of meat, is based on a traditional inspection approach. This was developed more than 100 years ago to tackle the public health concerns of that era, such as parasites and other defects visible to the naked eye. Currently, the main causes of foodborne disease are microbiological (for example, campylobacter, salmonella and E.coli) so cannot be seen by the naked eye.

Official controls are set out in European legislation so any changes must be agreed with other European member states, the European Commission and international partners.

Advisory body meeting

The FSA's Advisory Body for the Delivery of Official Controls met last month to update members on the programme and to discuss the future of meat inspection.

Members heard about discussions with European partners on the modernisation of meat inspection. The meeting also learnt about the conclusions adopted by the Council of the European Union on the Commission’s review of the 2006 food hygiene legislation.

The Advisory Body was informed of the FSA’s research call published in November 2009 and the Agency’s plans for further research in this area. Results from the first wave of research are expected towards the end of this year. Further information on research is available on the FSA web site.

These activities are part of the programme of work the Agency set up to assess the effectiveness of alternative approaches to current official controls, and to build the supporting evidence through rigorous research.

The meeting also heard from a representative of the European Livestock and Meat Trade Union (UECBV), who presented their ideas for an improved inspection regime for the red meat sector. UECBV’s presentation can also be found on the FSA web site.

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