scene & herd

The ongoing review of the FSA's responsibility for "official controls in meat plants" will reach a new stage next month when proposals are put to the FSA board.

This is a rare occasion on which industry has been consulted to a point where there has been a level of agreement between meat trade groups and a joint approach with the review team to the issues involved. All parties agree that the current arrangements for meat inspection are unsatisfactory, and the system "unfit for purpose".

A report on the review is to be put to the FSA board at its July meeting, and this will open the way for the next steps. The BMPA has supported the approach taken so far and we hope that it will be agreed that progress towards delivering a more effective and affordable meat inspection system will not be in discrete steps, but within a progressive framework that allows concurrent rather than consecutive trials, and permits comparison between a "transformed MHS" and new competitive control bodies.

Work so far undertaken suggests that significant financial savings overall are possible. This is a start, but we believe that these can and must be developed further, and that the cost share increases to industry being put forward so far are unsustainable. However, we would not wish to delay the start of lobbying for EC legislation that will allow meat plants to take further responsibility, and which will inevitably take time.

This is delicate and sensitive work. It will be very important that any new system does not undermine consumer confidence in the products we market. We must all hope that the FSA board supports the co-operative efforts made so far and allows the building of a mutually beneficial system.

Gerry Finley

British Meat Processors Association

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