Food Law News - UK - 1999

10 September 1999: MEAT HYGIENE - Audit of Meat Hygiene Service Published

MAFF News Release (311/99), 10 September 1999

Audit of Meat Hygiene Service Published

The second annual audit of the Meat Hygiene Service is published today. Welcoming its publication Baroness Hayman, Food Safety Minister said:
"The audit of the MHS performance is a vital component of the drive to improve meat hygiene standards. Consumer confidence in British meat is crucial to the long term future of the British livestock industry and the Meat Hygiene Service has a vital role to play in helping to build that confidence. The new Food Standards Agency will be operational in the next year or so and will be tasked with reducing the risk to public health associated with food-borne infections: the inspection and enforcement responsibilities of the MHS will be an integral and major component of this effort".

Visits were made by Veterinary Meat Hygiene Advisers to audit the performance of the MHS at 284 of 1568 (18 per cent) licensed premises throughout the year and the report includes all findings, including those where remedial and enforcement action was being or has since been taken. The Meat Hygiene Service's response to the Audit Report is published with the report.

The audit assessed compliance by MHS hygiene and inspection teams with a range of operational procedures: both statutory and advisory. The report notes that non-compliance with procedures does not necessarily indicate contravention of the legal requirements nor the existence of a public health risk. Non-compliance findings were split into minor, major and critical.

The Meat Hygiene Service is an executive agency of the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food (MAFF) with responsibility for enforcing domestic legislation in relation to meat hygiene, inspection and animal welfare in licensed fresh meat, poultry meat and game meat establishments and in integrated premises producing meat products, meat preparations and minced meat. An audit of the Meat Hygiene Service is carried out annually by the Veterinary Meat Hygiene Advisers of the VPHU in England and of the SVS in Scotland and Wales. The purpose of the audit is to determine, by independent means, whether MHS operations, practices and activities comply with requirements as specified in the MHS Operations Manual, the relevant legislation and Codes of Practice. This audit complements the separate SVS audit of MHS compliance with Specified Risk Material controls reported in the monthly BSE Enforcement Bulletin.

The report covers the period 1 April 1998 to 31 March 1999. Two hundred and eighty four MHS supervised premises were audited in Great Britain during this period. The report sets out the results and recommendations arising from those visits, including those where remedial and enforcement action was being or has since been taken. The audit report is an essential part of raising standards further and the findings indicate where improvements are required. Problems at individual plants were discussed with the Official Veterinary Surgeon and plant management at the time of the visit. MHS management were also informed of the results of each visit to enable remedial action to be taken. Monthly progress reports relating to the audit are published in the Meat Hygiene Enforcement Report.

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