The chairman for the Meat Hygiene Service has told the industry to come up with the evidence needed to force changes in Europe to inspections that he recognises are "a waste of time".
Ian Reynolds came under fire for putting up meat inspection charges by 8% at the start of April. At the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers' (SAMW) conference, he was told that several meat plants were already taking legal advice about withholding payments.
Reynolds retorted by saying the MHS was prepared to go to the European Commission and secure the more proportionate risk-based regime it desired. He said: "We all know the current system is not right. Why should we be employing expensive, fully qualified vets and then remove their ability to use their professional judgment through the use of an overly prescriptive rule book? This is costing us all time and costing industry a significant amount. It makes no sense."
Reynolds said many of the controls were a waste of time, but had to be undertaken because UK and European law demanded them. He added that industry, too, had to clean up its act and adhere to the rules, saying last year's debacle after dip-treated sheep ending up in the food chain was unhelpful in securing change.
SAMW president Allan Jess had earlier accused Reynolds of running an over-priced, poorly managed organisation that thrived on bureaucracy. He said the increased inspection costs, combined with higher livestock buying costs and the reluctance of retailers to accept these, meant meat businesses were under considerable financial pressure.
SAMW is already undertaking a study of meat inspection controls and the charging regime. This is looking at the impact on businesses of European and UK legislation. Alan Craig, of ABP, Perth, and vice-president of SAMW, said: " Early indications pointed to the MHS having overcharged my business £20,000 in the three months prior to Christmas."
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