Meat supplier body accuses FSA of charging 'incompetence'

The Food Standards Agency's (FSA's) handling of changes to meat inspection charging has been slammed by the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS) in a letter to its members.

AIMS said processors had been sent letters by the FSA, informing them that there may be changes to charges for 2010/11.

In its letter AIMS argued: "EU legislation stipulates minimum charges per head in euros that the FSA must charge. Those charges are converted into pounds by using the average conversion rate for the previous calendar year. Last year, the pound was weak and, as a result, headage rates for this year have increased by 11.27%."

Its letter continued: "At the FSA board meeting on 10 November last year, officials threw their toys out of the pram and informed the board that because Ministers had not agreed to allow charges to rise by the 4% the board had sanctioned, the FSA had no alternative but to reassess its charging policy.

"At that time, the FSA had 11 out of the 12 conversion rates it needed to calculate this year's headage rates and it should have been glaringly obvious that charges were to rise by far more than they wanted, due to the pound's weakness. That this was not explained to the board can only have been due to gross incompetence or wilful economy with the truth."

The FSA said the potential additional charge arose due to the requirement for each plant's charges to be at least the rate set out under EU regulations. The EU sets fixed minimum rates per animal slaughtered.

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