FSA Consultation Letter, 17 March 2003
The main purpose of the amendment Regulations is to address the transposition, in respect of England, of certain requirements of EC Directives 77/99/EEC and 94/65/EC, in response to recommendations by the EC Food and Veterinary Office (FVO). Responses are requested by: 6 June 2003
The amendment Regulations will further amend the Meat Products (Hygiene) Regulations 1994 and the Minced Meat and Meat Preparations (Hygiene) Regulations 1995, and minor consequential adjustments to the Products of Animal Origin (Import and Export) Regulations 1996 with respect to England. It is anticipated that similar proposals will be consulted on separately in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The draft amendment Regulations form part of the UK's action plan to address certain findings of the FVO following their inspection in January 2001 of UK official controls over the production of meat products, minced meat and meat preparations. In their report, published in May 2001, the FVO identified a number of requirements in the meat products Directive (77/99/EEC) and the minced meat and meat preparations Directive (94/65/EC) which they believed the UK had failed to transpose satisfactorily into UK law.
The UK accepted some of the FVO's conclusions while disagreeing with others. The full FVO report may be viewed in PDF format on the European Commission web site and a copy of the UK response and action plan is available on the Food Standards Agency web site.
The majority of the amendments are technical in nature and it is thought that they will have minimal impact on industry and enforcement authorities.
Authorisation of OPOAO establishments
The main change is the introduction of a new requirement for the authorisation of standalone establishments producing other products of animal origin (OPOAO). OPOAO are defined in the Meat Products (Hygiene) Regulations 1994 and include meat extracts, rendered animal fats, greaves, meat powder and stomachs, bladders and intestines which have been subjected to specified treatments.
The amended Regulations will impose no new hygiene requirements on OPOAO production over and above those that are already required by the present Regulations. Local food authorities will be responsible for enforcing the amended Regulations in England. These give food authorities in England powers to issue, amend, suspend or revoke authorisations and to register authorised establishments. [Persons aggrieved by a decision to refuse authorisation, or to suspend or withdraw authorisation, have the right to appeal to a magistrate's court.] The amended Regulations require OPOAO establishments to be allocated a unique serial number, which must be quoted on commercial documentation accompanying consignments. The Food Standards Agency will be required to maintain a register of authorised premises.
This requirement largely formalises Government guidance issued in 1994 on the content of commercial documentation in respect of OPOAO consignments, and so should not represent a significant additional burden on either OPOAO producers or food authorities. The Food Standards Agency's records indicate that there approximately 40 establishments involved in the trade of OPOAO with other countries, of which only four are standalone. There may be other standalone establishments trading on the national market only, details of which are not held centrally by the Agency. The FSA would therefore welcome information from local authorities and industry on the number of standalone OPOAO establishments in England that may fall within the scope of amended Regulations so that we can assess more fully the impact of the new requirements.
The detailed requirements are set out in Regulation 2(4) of the amendment Regulations and amend Regulation 15 of the Meat Products (Hygiene) Regulations 1994.
OPOAO activities undertaken within licensed fresh meat establishments or establishments approved to produce meat products do not require separate authorisation and are unaffected by this amendment.
Minced Meat and Meat Preparations
The main amendments to the Minced Meat and Meat Preparations (Hygiene) Regulations 1995 centre on the requirements for microbiological testing in Schedules 11 and 13 of those Regulations. These are set out in Regulation 3 of the amendment Regulations. The FVO concluded that the references to Salmonella testing in these Schedules were too implicit and did not adequately reflect the requirements of Council Directive 94/65/EC. Therefore, the tables in these Schedules are amended to include an explicit requirement for microbiological sampling to include tests for Salmonella and the associated thresholds. Government guidance issued in 1995 to assist interpretation of the Minced Meat and Meat Preparations (Hygiene) Regulations 1995 confirmed that food businesses should undertake appropriate Salmonella testing. As such, the FSA do not think that the draft proposals will impose any significant additional burden on food businesses in this regard. However, we would welcome any comments on this assumption, including any information on the nature of likely additional burdens and/or costs arising from this amendment.
In addition, the FVO pointed out that Directive 94/65/EC requires microbiological testing in respect of minced meat for the national market to be carried out on the minced meat itself. The current UK Regulations permit the testing both of minced meat and the raw meat used as a raw material in its production. The amendment Regulations will adjust this to require the testing of minced meat only, thus bringing our national legislation into line with the Directive.
In addition to the amendments prompted by the FVO, the opportunity is being taken to correct a number of typographical errors in the Meat Products (Hygiene) Regulations 1994 and the Minced Meat and Meat Preparations (Hygiene) Regulations 1995. Regulation 4 of the amendment Regulations give effect to consequential amendments in respect of the Products of Animal Origin (Import and Export) Regulations 1996.