Petty and vindictive..?

As President of the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers I was keenly interested to read your leading article "Meat Hygiene Reform May Be Compromised" in the July 24 edition of the Meat Trades Journal.

SAMW's case against the proposed increase in meat hygiene charges was well documented in the press in recent months. We fought long and hard to get our arguments across and ultimately ministers took their decision not to increase charges this year. That should have been the end of the matter and enabled both FSA and the industry to move on.

I was astonished, therefore, when I watched the proceedings of the FSA board meeting held on 14 July. In informing the board of the outcome of the consultation, Tim Smith appeared to issue a threat that the meat industry would pay for this in other ways. The income foregone from the proposed increase would leave a hole in FSA's budget and Mr Smith commented that "those who saw the 4% rise as a simple win or lose decision need to think carefully about the consequences. There will have to be consequences for the Agency's work". He then went on to say "lack of extra revenue would affect the FSA's ability to pursue meat hygiene control reform in the EU." I found this very strange because during the consultation Mr Smith described the proposed 4% extra being requested from the meat industry as small and affordable.

One of the big failures of the FSA and the Department of Health has been the complacency shown recently in removing outdated and unnecessary official controls. To their credit FSA has accepted that reform is overdue and agreed to put in place arrangements and the resources to enable a more proactive approach to be taken. Reform of these costly controls is well documented as a high industry priority and any attempt to put this on the back burner because of defeat on the charging issue would be deplorable and widely regarded as petty and vindictive. Furthermore, it would be a self-inflicted wound by the FSA because while reform will reduce costs for meat plants, it will also result in cost savings for the FSA.

I trust that when Mr Smith reflects on his ill-considered remarks at the FSA board he will see the sense of this and act in an appropriate manner.

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