FSA accused of 'spin'

Food safety bosses have been accused of "spin at its very worst" when it comes to claims over the reduction in meat inspection costs.

Norman Bagley, policy director with the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers, said: "People will have seen the claim in MTJ by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) that "we have made a saving of 13.4m" over the last three years on work chargeable to industry. It is simply untrue."

He claims the organisation has made no allowance for changes that have occurred to the industry and the subsequent reduced inspection requirements, while "assuming that meat inspection costs have been subject to the same inflationary pressures as those on the economy as a whole". "This is spin at its very worst," he said. "In 2006/07, according to the MHS annual report, there were 297 red meat and 102 poultry meat abattoirs, a total of 399. Last year, in its final report to the FSA board, the MHS said there were 271 red meat abattoirs and 87 white meat abattoirs, a total of 358. That is a 10% reduction. FSA costs are highly dependent on the number of abattoirs they service and the FSA should have made an allowance for the reduction in the size of the industry when it did its calculation. If it had done so, its "virtual" saving would be down to 6.5m."

He added that the regulation changes removing 100% OV presence at slaughterhouses, as well as other changes, should have led to a reduc-tion of 5m chargeable to industry, which he claims did not happen.

He said: "If the FSA had been set targets for work chargeable to industry over the last three years that took account of the reduction in its workload and had only allowed inflationary pressures that actually applied to it to be taken into account, it would have failed miserably. The FSA has failed to demonstrate it can run an efficient food inspection service, and is spinning out of control in its efforts to justify charging industry the full cost of its inefficiency."

An FSA spokesman said: "It's untrue to say the FSA has 'spun' any information. We have been com-pletely transparent in the lead-up to this consultation and after its publication, taking part in media discussion via various outlets, including MTJ, and ongoing dialogue with industry representatives."

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