5 September 1997

MAFF meat hygiene rules due

NEW meat hygiene guidelines involving farmers, auction markets and abattoirs are expected to be announced by MAFF next week.

Farm minister Jack, Cunningham, was set to launch reports on the red and white meat sectors covering hygiene standards and training at the food safety conference in London on Tuesday.

But a decision by the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, to order cabinet members not to give policy statements in the run up to the Princess of Waless funeral tomorrow (Sat) meant the announcement was postponed.

It is now likely to be made by junior farm minister Jeff Rooker at next weeks Chartered Institute of Environmental Health Officers annual meeting in Bournemouth.

The government is expected to back the Meat Hygiene Services calls in May for clean livestock at auction marts and abattoirs. Dirty livestock and carcasses showing faecal contamination were seen as a contributory factor in the spread of the deadly E coli O157 in the UK.

But Carol Lloyd, NFU deputy livestock officer, said the new government guidelines would follow the MHS categories of cleanliness, and would not seek to impose further restrictions on farmers.

Peter Scott, Federation of Fresh Meat Wholesalers director general, expected MAFF to announce continued pressure on abattoirs to adopt stringent hygiene self-assessment guidelines.

"Plants will be asked to assess risk levels at each stage of production, but these will be on a voluntary basis. The good plants have already adopted this, but the bad plants have not so I am not sure how successful this will be."

He also expected the announcement to include a demand for higher standards of training for all individuals within meat plants. That follows MAFFs report in April which found that veterinary supervision within more than half the abattoirs was below standard. &#42

The importance of presenting clean cattle for slaughter is expected to be highlighted by government in the coming week.