The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has been told by the National Beef Association that it must honour its promise to modernise the costly and inefficient regulatory system used by the Meat Hygiene Service (MHS).
And the Association has also warned that cattle feeders and finishers will resist any effort that is made, whether by abattoir operators or the MHS itself, to force them to contribute to the Service’s full cost recovery.
“There is no way that beef farmers can afford to have yet more, additional, post-slaughter costs dumped on them by others and the NBA will resist all efforts by the FSA to secure a full cost recovery for MHS activity that will impose more expense on abattoir owners,” explained Association director, Kim Haywood after meeting FSA chief executive, Tim Smith, in Edinburgh at the end of last week.
“Instead of taking the lazy route, and attempting to extract additional cash from an impoverished meat industry as its first option, the FSA must make an effort to eradicate longstanding cost inefficiencies within the inspection system before any other considerations are taken into account.”
Mr Smith was reminded that FSA pledges to modernise the regulatory and inspection system for processing meat, especially beef, are moving forward much too slowly.
“It is some time now since the industry first heard that MHS charges would soon be calculated on the basis of work, which still needed to be undertaken after a thorough examination of risk and cost proportionality,” said Ms Haywood.
“But even though many of the current inspection practices are decidedly not fit for purpose, very little has been done to reduce expense or make the MHS supervision process more efficient.”
“There are inspection controls in place, some of which relate to BSE, which are in urgent need of re-assessment, modification, or removal and it is unreasonable in the extreme to expect the industry, particularly farmers, to underwrite the cost of any unnecessary operation while this inefficiency continues.”
“It is the NBA’s clear view that current moves to increase MHS charges are unjustified, untimely and unreasonable and it will be making its opinions equally clear when it submits its response to the FSA’s public consultation on raising MHS charges which concludes at the end of the month,” Ms Haywood added.
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