Use regulatory control, not the courts by Philip Corrigan

Following my own presentation and the ensuing discussion at the recent AIMS conference regarding the UK inspection/hygiene system, I am more than ever convinced that necessary (reasonable) regulatory control could and should be maintained through the application of existing systems, rather than having to rely upon the formal prosecution and the court system.

The regulatory instruments available under legislation to meat inspection/hygiene officers of most meat-producing countries and, I believe available to the UK OVS/MI include:

l advice to the management of a non compliance issue,

l formal letter of warning,

l threat of (and/or actual) withholding of official stamps,

l threat of (and/or actual) refusal to sign and issue export health certificates.

With sensible application, these instruments allow control to be maintained without reversion to formal prosecution action.

The current situation in the UK is one where the FSA appears very keen to lay formal charges for all the wrong reasons of wishing to appear tough, but in fact, confirming that it is weak admitting it cannot get compliance without seeking the assistance of a magistrate and the wider law.

I would like to see clarification of what are the regulatory instruments available to the on-plant OVS/MI and a ranking in their order of severity. This should be followed by a commitment by FSA for fair, but firm, application of these instruments in order to maintain control. Following national application of necessary awareness and training, such a system would maintain adequate plant control, foster shared regulator/industry vision and gain regulatory respect while cutting down prosecutions. This is the system in the majority of the major meat producing and processing countries.

The objective should be for FSA (or any other body delivering on-plant controls) to be regulators and not prosecutors. And the winners would be plant operators and common sense.

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