Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers calls for common sense from Food Standards Scotland

Alan McNaughton, president of the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW), has said Food Standards Scotland (FSS) should employ more “common sense” to meat safety issues. 

McNaughton used his opening address at the SAMW’s annual conference on Saturday 16 April, to criticise Scotland’s newly-formed food safety body, the FSS, over the way it has handled a raft of meat safety issues.

“We are less than happy, however, with the way in which FSS has handled issues where a little common sense would have enabled individual consignments of perfectly safe Scotch meat to have been released into the food chain, rather than be declared as waste and destroyed,” said McNaughton.

“The need for common-sense issues isn’t being helped by the new body’s zero tolerance towards ante-mortem. Declaring zero tolerance sounds good, but all too often results in the wrong decision being made.”

The FSS was established by the Food (Scotland) Act 2015 with the Food Standards Agency (FSA) devolving its powers in Scotland to the new government-funded body.

McNaughton added there was a certain amount of “tidying up” required, as the FSS had only been in operation for a little over a year. He did add that the SAMW was “grateful [for the] far better engagement” it had with the new body in comparison to the FSA.

Replying to McNaughton was FSS’ CEO Geoff Ogle who was under election purdah – a pre-election period during which government officials cannot make announcements on new plans.

Ogle was able to mention that one of the challenges facing his body over the next 12 months was the “weight of expectation” the red meat industry had put on the FSS.

He also responded to criticism that it was the FSS who was generating undue costs for Scotland’s red meat industry. Ogle pointed to the fact that from April 2015 to March 2016, the industry generated £249,159 in overtime and idle time costs.

Ogle also sketched an idea of what the FSS’ meat safety strategy would look like moving forwards. He said it was difficult to give details as he was still unaware of the level of funding the body would receive for 2017-18.

One element of the future strategy included plans to make non-compliant firms pay for their non-compliance, rather than have this funded by the taxpayer.

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