12 January 1996

Meat trade fury at threat of £0.5m+ bill for offal control

By Tony McDougal

ABATTOIRS are set to face a bill for £550,000 from Apr 1 as the government plans to charge the industry for offal controls made in the light of the BSE scare.

The Ministry of Agriculture is proposing that slaughterhouses take over the costs of enforcement of controls on specified bovine offal and mechanically recovered meat from the Meat Hygiene Service.

If the scheme goes ahead, a charge of 17p a carcass would be imposed on a typical slaughterhouse to cover extra veterinary inspections, and this could leave larger abattoirs facing an additional £25,000 a year bill.

The consultation document has infuriated both the Federation of Fresh Meat Wholesalers, whose meat plants have already had to bear the brunt of costs for the control of SBOs, and the Livestock Auctioneers Association.

Both industry bodies have hit out at the tactlessness of MAFFs decision to bring out the consultation paper just weeks after the latest BSE scare, which led to a 20% slump in beef sales.

MAFF claims the growing cost has become too significant to continue to be paid out of public funds, adding that the charge should be met by the meat industry.

It claims the consultation document has been released now so that the regulations could be installed for the beginning of the next financial year (Apr 1, 1996).

There is speculation in the industry that the consultation paper arose after the MHS complained to the government of having to bear additional charges not mentioned when it was set up.

Peter Scott, Federation of Fresh Meat Wholesalers general secretary, said an extraordinary industry forum meeting had been arranged with the Meat Hygiene Service to discuss the issue later next month.

David Maunder, director of Devon-based abattoir Lloyd Maunder, said there was anger among the meat industry that it and not the farming community was bearing the brunt of the costs associated with BSE.

John Martin, Livestock Auc-tioneers Association secretary, said he was amazed the government was planning to implement the charge at such a time. &#42