AIMS makes progress on judicial review

The Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS) has taken a massive step forward in securing a judicial review of the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) refusal to allow appeals against Official Veterinarian’s (OV) decisions. 

Following the High Court’s dismissal of a previous application for a judicial review on the issue last June, AIMS, on advice from Stephen Hockman QC, argued that EU law required member states to provide a right of appeal and the UK Food Safety Act provided such a right.

In the Royal Courts of Justice, Hockman argued the case before Lady Justice Gloster who found that there was “a real chance of an appeal being successful”. She then determined that three Lord Justices of Appeal should hear the case in the Court of Appeal. A date has yet to be set for the hearing.

Norman Bagley, head of policy for AIMS, said: “We’re not there yet but this is an important step to ensure healthy carcases are not disposed of for no good reason and will mean a real gain for farmers.”

The issue arose following a case involving a bull that had topped the market and had been found healthy at ante-mortem inspection, but at post-mortem inspection had been declared totally unfit for human consumption by an OV because, he said, it was suffering from generalised pyaemia.

At ante-mortem inspection no signs of a generalised disease were found. The carcase was completely normal, there were just three abscesses in the viscera, which were disposed of by the meat inspectors without being shown to the OV.

The FSA refused to allow the OV’s decision to be appealed by the provision in the Food Safety Act and refused to allow a second opinion to be obtained even though the RCVS requires all vets, including OVs, to facilitate a second opinion if requested to do so.

AIMS said that the case was not an appeal of the OV’s decision but of the FSA not allowing the OV’s decision to be challenged under the relevant provision in the Food Safety Act 1990.

“Lady Justice Gloster’s judgment gives considerable confidence that our claim will be successful and the right to appeal, which is routine in other member states and had previously been routine in the UK, will be restored.”

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