Food Law News - UK - 2000

FSA Statement (2000/06), 21 December 2000

MEAT HYGIENE - Food Standards Agency Statement on Condemned Meat

After the trial in Hull Crown Court where condemned chicken was put into the human food chain, the Food Standards Agency said:

"Putting condemned meat into the human food chain is a very serious matter, and one that could affect human health. We have been following this case closely. It has raised some important issues that we are considering carefully. We are already discussing with MAFF, the Meat Hygiene Service and LACOTS the need for further action to reduce the likelihood of this happening again. The fresh meat sector is one of the most strictly regulated sectors of the food industry. If the law needs tightening to ensure better protection of human health, we would not hesitate to recommend changes to the law. This could include the staining of poultry meat. If anyone has any evidence of condemned meat entering the food chain we urge them to approach either their local authority or our Local Authority Enforcement Support Division."

The Food Standards Agency met with Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council on 5 December. No evidence has yet been provided by Rotherham of an illicit trade in condemned poultry outside of this court case. The Agency will be meeting Rotherham MBC after the conclusion of the case to discuss any information they have to substantiate this claim.

Slaughterhouses and cutting plants are approved and licensed by the Food Standards Agency. Enforcement of the animal by-products legislation in licensed slaughterhouses, where unfit meat is separated from the meat which is fit for human consumption, is the responsibility of the Minister of Agriculture Fisheries and Food in England (and the Secretaries of State in Scotland and Wales).

The Official Veterinary Surgeons and Meat Hygiene Inspectors, employed by the Meat Hygiene Service, carry out the function of enforcing the animal by-products legislation on behalf of the Minister, MAFF (or SoS for Wales and Scotland).

Once unfit meat is separated from meat that is fit for human consumption, it is required to be sent for disposal in approved premises. Approval of by-products plants, including collection centres and rendering plants where condemned meat should be disposed of, is the responsibility of MAFF. Enforcement at such premises lies with local authorities, who should ensure that they have adequate resources for enforcement to suit the local situation.

The Agency has recently published new guidelines for local authorities setting out when local authorities are required to inform the Agency of a serious food hazard. The Agency's role is to ensure that effective action is taken at a local level, and where necessary to notify other local authorities of action required and to help cop-ordinate action at a national level.

If any similar incidents come to light in Rotherham, or by any other local authority, they should contact the Food Standards Agency as a matter of urgency.

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