According to the Scottish Executive, an independent expert panel has been set up to consider the future delivery of the food standards regime in Scotland.
It said the move followed the UK government’s decision last year to absorb some of the policy areas overseen in England by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), a UK-wide body, back into Whitehall departments.
The panel will be chaired by former UK chief vet Jim Scudamore, and will consider the feasibility of establishing a dedicated Scottish FSA, and also the merits of establishing a standalone meat inspection delivery service in Scotland.
Public Health Minister Michael Matheson said: “The Westminster Government’s decision to fragment the FSA south of the border has resulted in a situation where a UK-wide agency carries out different food standard functions in different parts of the UK.
“Scotland needs to consider how best to respond to this change, recognising the expertise of the FSA team based in Aberdeen. That’s why we have invited Jim Scudamore to lead a review that can provide Ministers with recommendations on the FSA’s functions in Scotland.
“The review will also include a full assessment of the feasibility of setting up a devolved meat inspection delivery service in Scotland. We expect the panel to consult widely before reporting to Ministers later this year.”
Alan Craig, president of the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers, welcomed the news: “We have lobbied long and hard for such a review, arguing that the FSA in general and meat inspection in particular, needs to be at the top of the government’s agenda for action.
“This is an important review, the outcome of which will shape the future of meat inspection in Scotland for many years to come. Any new system, of course, must maintain, and could even enhance, food safety, which is and always has been our priority consideration.
“Within this context, we obviously want to see decisions taken and changes made as soon as possible, for the good of the whole Scottish meat chain. What we also need is a long-term meat inspection solution, which is relevant to Scotland’s world-class red meat processing sector and which will enable the Scottish meat chain to fulfil its potential at home and abroad.”