FSA Consultation Document, 17 August 2011
A copy of the consultation document is available on this site. See: FSA Consultation - Revocation of Authorised Officers (Meat Inspection)
Whether to revoke the Authorised Officers (Meat Inspection) Regulations 1987. Responses are requested by: 28 September 2011
Who will this consultation be of most interest to?
Local Authorities; Association of Meat Inspectors; Meat Industry, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH), Union Representation
What is the subject of this consultation?
Whether to revoke the Authorised Officers (Meat Inspection) Regulations 1987
What is the purpose of this consultation?
To give the opportunity for interested parties to comment upon the above proposal. Currently paragraph 188.8.131.52.1 of the Food Law Code of Practice states that in respect of fresh meat, only officers qualified in accordance with the above Regulations can inspect, seize and detain the meat. This now causes an anomaly due to the different qualification routes available, as some Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) with equivalent qualifications cannot currently be authorised to seize meat. A new qualification – the Higher Certificate in Food Control – has also recently been introduced which gives officers the knowledge and skills to inspect, seize and detain all food, including fresh meat. This will allow a greater number of suitably qualified officers to carry out this duty. The Code of Practice will be reviewed, at the next opportunity, to include this new qualification. Interested parties are asked to let the Agency know if, in their opinion, there are any reasons why the Regulations should not be revoked.
The Authorised Officers (Meat Inspection) Regulations 1987 were introduced to specify the qualification requirements of those persons being authorised by a council to undertake the examination and seizure of fresh meat under the Food Act 1984. For those local authorities involved in the examination and seizure of fresh meat it provides an exhaustive list of qualifications, of which an officer must hold at least one to be appropriately authorised. Details of the qualifications listed in the Regulations can be found via the link below.
The majority of activities relating to the examination and seizure of raw meat were transferred to the then Meat Hygiene Service (now within the Food Standards Agency) in April 1995. However, local authorities retain responsibility for the examination and seizure of fresh meat at point of retail.
Following the introduction of Regulation (EC) No 882/2004, it is now the competent authority's responsibility to ensure that those carrying out official controls are suitability qualified and experienced. These suitability requirements are laid down within the Food Law Code of Practice for local authority staff and the Food Standards Agency's own policy document for Agency staff involved in meat inspection. These require that to inspect, seize and detain food officers should be:
In relation to the Food Law Code of Practice:
In order to seize meat the officer must hold one of the qualifications listed in the in Authorised Officers (Meat Inspection) Regulations 1987. Officers not holding one of these qualifications cannot be authorised to seize meat.
In relation to the Agency's own policy document:
Due to the different qualifications that existed at the time these Regulations were drafted, an anomaly exists that prevents EHOs holding the The Royal Environmental Health Institute of Scotland Diploma in Environmental Health from seizing meat. At the time the regulations came into force, EHOs were expected to hold an additional qualification – the Diploma in the inspection of meat and other foods in order to inspect and seize meat.
In addition, in 2009 the Higher Certificate in Food Control was introduced. This new qualification, which provides for an equivalent standard of learning in relation to seizure and detention as that delivered to EHOs, is designed to allow authorised officers of a local authority who are not EHOs to inspect, seize and detain food. However, due to the more specific requirements of the Authorised Officers (Meat Inspection) Regulations 1987 these officers are currently restricted from exercising this power with respect to fresh meat.
The revocation of the Authorised Officers (Meat Inspection) Regulations 1987 would allow all local authority officers who meet the requirements of the Code of Practice to be authorised to seize fresh meat, including those holding equivalent qualifications. This will enable local authorities to make more effective use of their available qualified and competent resource.
Revocation of the Authorised Officers (Meat Inspection) Regulations 1987 will not retrospectively impact upon holders of the qualifications they refer to or the authorisations issued under them to date. It is recognised that there may be existing officers who initially qualified as official veterinary auxiliaries under these Regulations. The existing qualifications will, therefore, still be recognised. This will allow local authorities, and the Food Standards Agency, where appropriate, to accept a wider number of suitable qualifications as evidence in support of competence. The assessment of competence will remain with the local authority or the Food Standards Agency where appropriate.
The Trade in Animal Related Products Regulations (TARP) 2011 provides for 'authorised officers' of an enforcement authority to act and makes no mention of qualifications or reliance upon the 1987 regulations, as such removal of the regulation should not impact activities undertaken under the TARP regulations.
The Food Standards Agency would welcome any views, particularly if you are concerned that revoking the Regulations would be problematic. The views of local authorities, authorised officers, local government representative bodies and those involved in the meat industry would be particularly welcome.