AIMS hits back at FSA over suggested U-turn on SRM

The Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS) has reacted to claims by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) that it has done a U-turn over specified risk material (SRM) controls.

Meatinfo.co.uk reported that AIMS accused the FSA of scaremongering in a recent BBC Radio 4 programme, Inside the Abattoir, by exaggerating the risk of SRM in sheep reaching the food chain.

The debate is centred around a court case in which a slaughterhouse was prosecuted for leaving the spleen, which is classed as SRM, in a sheep carcase, which Andrew Rhodes, chief operating officer for the FSA, referred to in the programme.

EU regulations state that SRM must be removed from carcases at the slaughterhouse, but UK regulations state SRM must be removed before post-mortem inspection, unless attached to offal. AIMS claimed the slaughterhouse was unfairly prosecuted as spleen is attached to offal.

Norman Bagley, policy director at AIMS, added: The operator [at the slaughterhouse in question] was placed in a Catch 22 situation; he could either comply with the FSAs instructions in its Meat Industry Guide not to destroy or alter any evidence of disease prior to post-mortem inspection or present carcases for inspection only after all appropriate SRM has been removed.

The FSA told Meatinfo that it was disappointing that AIMS should take such a view on SRM controls which is at odds with the position they have taken publicly in the recent past, referencing a public statement made by AIMS and other bodies representing the abattoir sector in November 2013, which showed support of the new SRM controls.

Bagley said: AIMS has not done a U-turn. It fully supports the FSAs stated policy of proportionate, risk-based enforcement of TSE controls.

The risk-based proportionate action, which is what the operator took, was for the diseased tissues to be presented for inspection by meat inspectors and then removed, rather than being removed before post-mortem inspection and covered in blue dye, so that it could never be inspected. However, the FSA told the court it was never acceptable for diseased SRM to be presented for post-mortem inspection, even though the FSA is required by the regulations to always inspect the spleen. The Agency does not appear to know its own responsibilities or understand the concept of risk.

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