E.coli guidelines affect commercial viability
Some butchers have chosen to discontinue ready-to-eat food, as enforcement of the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) E.coli guidelines issued in February is getting tougher. This is affecting their viability and could lead to shop closures in the long-term, the National Federation of Meat and Food Traders (NFMFT) has warned.
Local authorities across the UK are increasingly enforcing the guidelines through normal inspection procedures, forcing butchers to alter their businesses. In order to comply with the requirement to separate equipment for raw and ready-to-eat food, some are using alternative vacuum-sealing techniques for prepared meat, but others have decided to discontinue it altogether.
NFMFT chief executive Roger Kelsey told Meat Trades Journal: “They are altering their procedures to accommodate the FSA’s guidelines, but adopting a stronger policy on physical separation means additional costs, so they have to make a commercial judgment. It’s affecting their commercial viability and in the long-term, there will be butchers that will have to pack up.”
Kelsey expressed concern over the uneven enforcement of the guidelines that allow for different subjective interpretations. “The FSA says the rules are being enforced evenly across all food businesses, but there seem to be priority areas as far as authorities are concerned, and they focus more heavily on the butchery sector. The FSA is having to respond to this problem now, and is putting a lot of resource into re-educating authorities,” he said.
He also invited butchers to contact the NFMFT about any concerns they have regarding the E.coli guidelines. “We can advise them, and we can also mediate with the enforcement authorities if needed,” Kelsey added.