The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is to consider two different models of meat inspection delivery in the UK in the coming months. The review of the official controls follows the government's desire to move from subsidised delivery to full cost recovery.
In 2005-2006, the Veterinary Service invoiced FSA (Northern Ireland) around £7m for services delivered. Of this figure, £3.34m (£47%) was recovered from the industry in charges.
The government believes that full recovery of meat inspection costs would also provide incentives to businesses and those delivering Official Controls to organise their activities more efficiently.
Geoff Tierney, who was appointed the review's programme manager, said he had identified five basic models for the delivery of meat inspection and had discarded three of them in favour of only two, which he would be researching as possible contenders for the future. The two favourites he recommended pursuing are a transformed MHS and the third-party Control Bodies options.
Under the transformed MHS model the FSA would continue to use the MHS to deliver official controls but it would be transformed to become more efficient and be required to reduce costs, improve productivity and build more effective partnerships with its customers FBOS.
The Control Bodies option will allow FSA to delegate delivery to independent control bodies who would employ the vets and inspectors to provide official controls to the plants.
Maurice McCartney, director at the British Meat Processors Association, said he welcomed the FSA decision to examine the two models in further detail. "We believe there is a need to separate enforcement from delivery, with businesses being responsible for the operational side of controls."
The abandoned options include a farm-to-slaughter integrated official veterinary service model, that would have brought vets and meat inspectors together. However, Tierney said this could be a consideration for the longer term.
The Food Business Responsibility model, devolving
responsibility for daily inspection to businesses, was also discarded by Tierney as the Food and Veterinary Office was likely to be unsatisfied with the proposal. However, he said he would be looking into how FBOs could be incentivised to take more responsibility for animal health and welfare across the whole meat sector, starting with maximising the take-up of existing opportunities in the poultry industry. Tierney also jettisoned the third proposal, suggesting a move towards
Local Authority Delivery.
As the review moves towards Phase 2, Tierney has called for the appointment of two full-time staff to assist him. Phase 2 will report back to the Board in July 2007 with its final report and recommendations on a way forward,
including likely timescales and costs of proposed charges.