FSA interim boss defends stance at AIMS conference
The Food Standard Agency’s (FSA’s) acting chief executive defended the agency against criticism that little progress had been made since the Tierney report in 2007, and that many of the decisions agreed then had been allowed to stagnate.
Speaking at the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS) conference, interim FSA boss Charles Milne said that while problems had by no means been solved, recent developments had helped to reduce tension and would deliver a shared aim of making meat safe.
His speech responded to meat regulation consultant Peter Hewson’s argument that the FSA had side-stepped its own agreement on many proposals put forward by the Tierney report, and that little had been done to implement the ideas generated since then.
Hewson said: “Nothing happened before the MacDonald Report, which was thought to get Tierney back on the road.” He said the decision to allow the MHS to continue to be responsible for official delivery for meat inspection, rather than a control body had been the highest cost option in the long term. “If a control body had been put in place in 2007, it would have been cheaper and now, five years on, we’d be in profit.” he said.
Milne argued that the FSA had accepted 17 of the recommendations made in the MacDonald Report and that the agency was working towards them and welcomed ideas from industry. However, he added a proviso, saying: “We have to be legally empowered to do them,” and cited the FSA’s support for a move towards greater use of plant inspection assistants (PIAs) – “Bring it on!” – but that currently the law only allows this in poultry plants.
Defending the FSA’s role in bring merely ‘technical’ cases to court, Milne said that, as a regulator, much of the regulation was prescriptive and that it was the FSA’s job to implement rather than interpret the law.