In his inaugural address to members at the annual AGM at Butchers’ Hall, Edge spoke about the challenges facing the industry. He highlighted the guidelines issued by the Food Standard Agency (FSA) earlier this year as of particular concern and urged the FSA and local authorities to ensure that butchers were not unduly targeted.
He said: “If the FSA wish to apply these guidelines, they must ensure it is for every food business. There is no room for the rule to apply to one and not to the other.
“Complete separation in regard to handlers, to clothing and to machinery applies to all food businesses, whether they are a market stall, a fast-food outlet, a restaurant, hotel, greengrocer, baker, butcher, bagel-maker, supermarket, everyone. And the guidelines will be – and must be – applied across the board. Local authorities will not – and must not – get away with targeting just butchers.
“Any dispensations for chefs is totally and completely unacceptable.”
However, the FSA’s operations director Andrew Rhodes defended the controversial plans in his key-note speech at the meeting.
Rhodes told the member that the recent German E.Coli scare had highlighted the importance of food safety and that that there had been widespread support for the cross-contamination guidance during consultation. He reiterated that it was a living document and would be revised according to the lessons learnt through the process. He also reassured the members that consistency of application was the key although he recognised that every business was different and that there had to be some flexibility to do things ‘the right way’.
He said: “The risk from cross-contamination is very, very real. Although I trust in the professionalism in this room, the decision we took to issue the guidelines is based on scientific evidence. This is about protecting consumers and you are demonstrating that.”
However, Rhodes met with strong opposition from Federation members, who maintained that their views have not been listened to. They have vowed to continue the fight against both the guidelines and the FSA’s controversial plans for full-cost recovery. They said that the FSA did not understand the impact it was having on small businesses.
Outgoing president John Taylor criticised the “the over-staffing and policing of the industry”. He warned that the cross-contamination guidelines were impractical, not affordable and would result in severely limiting customer choice.
He said: "Contamination can take place if good training is not adhered to. At the end of the day the need to keep it separate is there – and we know that and we do that."