Industry condemns FSA meat inspections costs sharing

Industry organisations have expressed their opposition to increases in meat inspection charges in slaughterhouses, as set out in a consultation by the Food Standards Agency.

The consultation, which closed on 1 February, calls for full cost recovery to recoup the £32m of taxpayers’ money still spent on the meat inspection service.

The NFU, British Poultry Council (BPC) and the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS) are among dozens of industry bodies which have lodged their opposition to the changes, which could see inspection charges rise by up to 1300%.

NFU chief livestock adviser John Mercer said the union believed the FSA needed to explore more options, including cost cutting and increased competition, before passing on costs.

“It’s disappointing that there’s no talk of an alternative delivery model,” he told Poultry World. “We’re not advocating a total move to privatisation, but we need to have the option of using contractors who aren’t constrained by an overly bureaucratic system.”

“Also, it’s not fair for us to take on costs of what is presently a public service.”

Peter Bradnock, BPC chairman, agreed more cost saving could be done. The rates the FSA charged were too high and visual inspections were ineffectual from a food safety perspective, he suggested.

“The function of the FSA is to provide reassurance to the public and that should be paid for by the public purse,” he added.

Meanwhile, AIMS has urged its members to write to their MPs. “Using the latest data, we calculate that the costs in the average micro, small, medium and large slaughterhouse would rise by 1300%, 500%, 140% and 40% respectively,” said policy director Norman Bagley in a letter to members.

AIMS says that 40% of UK poultry is slaughtered in small- and medium-sized slaughterhouses, and these are at greatest threat of closure. Micro-slaughterhouses would have a better chance as, under draft regulations from the FSA, operations processing less than 150,000 birds a year would only pay 30% of the costs of inspections, it adds.

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