FSA wins beef carcase judicial review

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has won a judicial review brought against it by the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS) and Cleveland Meat Company Limited regarding a beef carcase that had been deemed unfit to enter the food chain. 

In September of last year, an FSA meat hygiene inspector registered three abscesses in the offal of the carcase and, along with the Official Veterinarian, cited pyaemia (a form of septicaemia) as the reason for the beef being unfit for human consumption.

Cleveland Meat Company contested this decision and, enlisting the help of AIMS, pursued a judicial review against the Official Veterinarian’s decision.

The judge ruled that the FSA had acted lawfully and that there was no legal right of appeal on decisions taken about whether meat is fit to enter the food chain after slaughter, which is taken by Official Veterinarians under European law.

Rod Ainsworth, director of regulatory and legal strategy at the FSA, said: “It’s very disappointing that AIMS and Cleveland Meats chose to pursue this unnecessary legal action. Our vets make judgements every day about whether meat is suitable to enter the food chain, and they do this based on their professional expertise for the sole purpose of protecting the public.

“Food businesses may not always like the decisions that are made, but as the failure of this Judicial Review demonstrates, those decisions are not open for debate. The judge agreed that our staff must be able to take action to ensure food is safe.”

AIMS to fight on

A spokesman for AIMS said the association was disappointed at the decision of the judge, but believes a legal challenge was and still is necessary. “The proceedings may well have been avoided if the FSA had agreed to a request for an independent expert to examine the carcase, which it refused point blank.

“The FSA appear to misunderstand the purpose of the challenge. It was not ‘an attempt to overturn a ruling by an FSA contractor’ but to contest the FSA’s decision that operators have no right to challenge official veterinarian’s decisions to declare meat unfit. It is AIMS’ position that where an FBO will not agree to the voluntary surrender of a carcase and/or other meat, the OV must seize the meat and take it before the Magistrates’ Court so that a Justice of the Peace may determine whether or not it ought to be condemned. This is set out in section 9 of the Food Safety Act 1990. This is a view shared by the FSA, save for they argue that section 9 only applies where the meat in question has been healthmarked.

“We believe that it is a fundamental right of all FBOs to challenge an OV’s decision to declare all meat unfit, whether the meat has been healthmarked or not, and this is certainly a right that food business operators enjoy in other member states.”

The spokesman added that AIMS will be seeking leave to appeal the judgment.

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