Food Law News - UK - 2005

FSA Consultation Letter, 9 May 2005

MEAT HYGIENE - Proposed changes to instructions to Meat Hygiene Service authorised officers

Views and comments are sought on the changes to the operational instructions to Meat Hygiene Service (MHS) authorised officers from 1 January 2006 . Responses are requested by: 5 August 2005

Consultation details

The instructions will apply in all premises that require approval and veterinary control, under the European Union Food Hygiene Regulations and will form part of the MHS Manual for Official Controls.

Background to consultation

The MHS is an executive agency of the Food Standards Agency (FSA). It is the enforcement body responsible for enforcing legislation relating to public health, animal health and welfare at slaughter in approved premises under veterinary control within Great Britain , on behalf of the FSA. Information collected by the MHS during the course of the consultation process will be shared with the FSA.

New Food Hygiene Regulations will apply in all Member States from 1 January 2006 . They replace 17 directives, including eight relating specifically to meat. These regulations are:

In addition, Regulation (EC) 882/2004 on official controls performed to ensure the verification of compliance with feed and food law, animal health and welfare rules, will also apply from 1 January 2006 , except provisions for financing which will not apply until 1 January 2007 . This sets out the general approach that must be adopted by the competent authorities in Member States with responsibility for monitoring and enforcing food law.

The new legislation will alter some of the duties of MHS authorised officers based in approved meat premises and will also place emphasis on the responsibility of food business operators to have in place appropriate procedures to ensure the safe production of meat. It will also alter those premises requiring veterinary supervision and therefore where the MHS acts as enforcement body.

New operational instructions are being developed for MHS staff performing official control duties to verify that food business operators putting fresh meat on the market comply with the EU Food Hygiene Legislation. These will form part of the MHS Manual for Official Controls. Obsolete instructions in the current MHS Operations Manual will be withdrawn.

The purpose of the consultation is to provide the meat industry and other stakeholders with the opportunity to comment on those areas where the operational instructions are changing.

It should be noted that the European Commission is preparing a draft Regulation on Implementing and Transitional Measures in respect of Regulations (EC) 853/2004, 854/2004 and 882/2004, which will need to be taken into account when finalising operational instructions. The latest version of this Regulation will itself be subject to a separate consultation.

There are further measures in place to ensure that the instructions are consulted upon as widely as possible and at an appropriate level. Two working groups have been set up to consider the revised operational instructions.

The first group comprises MHS authorised officers, with the second comprising representatives from the meat industry as well as the FSA, Department for Agriculture and Rural Development for Northern Ireland (DARDNI), UNISON and Local Authorities Co-ordination of Regulatory Services (LACORS). We are seeking views from both these groups to ensure that all the draft instructions are clear and readable and presented in a way that clearly sets out the actions that MHS authorised officers are required to undertake.

Once the public and internal consultations are completed, the MHS Manual for Official Controls will be produced in its entirety, and issued to MHS authorised officers, for them to become familiar with the new instructions prior to January 2006, when the new hygiene legislation takes effect.

The instructions for MHS authorised officers will cover England , Scotland and Wales , and so this consultation is intended for Great Britain . A separate manual is being written for Northern Ireland by DARDNI, and is therefore not included in this consultation.

The consultation runs in parallel with one by the FSA on a draft Guide to Food Safety and Other Regulations for the Meat Industry (‘the Meat Industry Guide'), details of which are available at the link below. This sets out legal obligations for food business operators in the meat sector and also provides advice on how these obligations can be met.

Details of this consultation

The complete MHS Manual for Official Controls is split into chapters that cover inspection and verification duties under the EU Food Hygiene Legislation as well as other legislation for which the MHS is the enforcement body.

This consultation covers only those parts of the Manual that will contain significant changes to current operational instructions as a result of the EU Food Hygiene Legislation, namely instructions relating to Food Chain Information; Ante Mortem Inspection; Post Mortem Inspection; Audit and Enforcement. The relevant parts of the draft chapters are available from the FSA web site (see below). The proposed MHS enforcement policy has also been available.

Specific questions/issues

Specific questions and issues for the consultation are set out below.

i) Regulation (EC) 854/2004 details that official veterinarians are required to carry out audits and inspections of slaughterhouses, game handling establishments and certain cutting plants, with Member States having the discretion to decide the most appropriate staff for audit and inspections of other types of establishments. Key changes:

We would appreciate any comments from those stakeholders who, for the first time, will be subject to MHS officers performing official control duties.

ii) Details of the routine inspections the MHS will carry out and their frequency are outlined in the Food Chain Information; Ante Mortem Inspection and Post Mortem Inspection chapters.

Stakeholder views are invited on these chapters, in particular whether there are any areas that you consider should instead be part of the Meat Industry Guide.

iii) Regulation (EC) 882/2004 sets down the principles that Competent Authorities should follow in undertaking official controls, including the adoption of a risk based approach. A scheme has been developed for meat plants subject to veterinary control that combines risk criteria set out in Regulation (EC) 854/2004 relating to public health risks, animal health risks (where appropriate); animal welfare risks (where appropriate) and type of processes carried out. The scheme closely follows the audit approach already used by local authorities, with an audit assessing the risks; confidence in management and compliance history. The intended scheme has five levels of audit frequency for meat premises, ranging from 2 to 12 monthly intervals.

A paper on the proposed risk assessment scheme was presented to the FSA Board meeting in March and is attached below . The attached Audit chapter details the scheme that has been developed and the procedures that we will follow.

We welcome your comments on:

iv) The proposed MHS Enforcement Policy explains the policy by which we seek to verify industry compliance with the legislation, with detailed instructions for MHS authorised officers provided in the Enforcement chapter.

Note: The following are currently available on the FSA website and can be accessed from

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