Meat hygiene costs set to rise

The fall of Sterling against the Euro has meant meat hygiene costs, which are decided by the EU, are set to rise significantly in January 2009. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has written to the meat industry to inform it that, therefore, meat hygiene costs are to increase.

Mindful of the criticisms it has already faced over meat hygiene charging proposals, the FSA is seeking comments from the meat industry on how can it take account of these unavoidable increases, as part of its consultation on wider changes to meat services charges in 2009/10.

The increased charges, which are set to come into effect on January 2009, are required for the UK to comply with EU legislation. This sets the rate in Euros per animal slaughtered or tonne of meat cut up and, every September, the Euro rates are converted to Sterling equivalence for UK purposes.

Tim Smith, FSA chief executive, said: "This is an established system of ensuring that charging across Europe does not fall below the required minimum rates. The weakness of Sterling means that these increases to charges on this occasion are higher than in previous years. This is why we are actively seeking industry's views on how we might modify our charging proposals for 2009/10 to take account of these increases. The FSA remains committed to modernising the MHS and working with industry to deliver an efficient and fair system of regulation."

BMPA director Stuart Roberts said: "While we appreciate the FSA has no control over the charging changes required as a consequence of exchange rate fluctuations, it is vital that all parts of government take account of these increases when considering new or increased charges in the coming months.

"The, FSA, Defra and devolved administrations must ensure that the impact of the changes, over which they had no control, is not compounded by their own pro-posals for the Meat Hygiene Service, Specified Risk Material charges or changes in the arrangements for testing BSE samples."

He added: "We welcome the news that the FSA will be looking to engage with industry on this topic, as part of their own consultation later this year, and we hope other government departments will follow suit before making decisions affecting the meat and livestock industry. But it is vital that the FSA takes the consultation responses seriously and does not simply pay lip service to this important process."

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