Review of meat cutting plants

14-06-2018 | |
Review of meat cutting plants. Photo: Rex/shutterstock
Review of meat cutting plants. Photo: Rex/shutterstock

Current meat industry practices do not present a systemic risk to public health but there is a need for modernisation including legislation, according to an interim report to be presented to the Food Standards Agency.

The first part of the review of meat cutting premises and cold stores, commissioned by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Food Standards Scotland (FSS) in February in the wake of serious non-compliance issues identified at cutting plants operated by 2 Sisters Food Group and Russell Hume, says the overall system of assurance and regulation does require modernisation.

In a paper to next week’s Food Standards Agency board, Chief Operating Officer Colin Sullivan and Food Standards Scotland operations director Ian McWatt conclude that:

  • While there is a comprehensive framework of legislation and guidance in place for local authorities and FSA/FSS, the guidance focuses predominantly on hygiene issues, rather than durability. There is no specific guidance on checks that should be carried out on cold stores following their approval.
  • The approval process for meat establishments is largely paper-based and there is inconsistency in training for officers carrying out approval assessments. Communications are variable when establishments transition between FSA/FSS and LA approval responsibility.
  • Training around competency requirements for FSA/FSS, LA and service delivery officials, while clearly documented, is in places outdated and focuses largely on slaughterhouse and game handling establishments rather than cutting plants.
  • Industry assurance data linked to the establishments currently being reviewed is not routinely shared between regulators and those that set the private standards
  • Implementation of the Food Law Code of Practice in the 4 countries making up the UK varies.
  • Communications between inspection and audit staff should be more coordinated and consistent.

The interim report says several areas for improvement have been identified and these will be discussed with stakeholders to develop new proposals which will go to the FSA/FSS Boards in September.

That report is likely to be accompanied by a delivery plan for short, medium and longer-term proposals.

Tony Mcdougal Freelance Journalist