Review of UK meat processing plants reveals need for improvement

The UK’s two food regulators – the Food Standards Agency and Food Standards Scotland – have published a draft review launched in the wake of a number of high profile non-compliance issues identified at meat cutting plants.

The review contains a series of recommendations for the meat industry and the regulators themselves aimed at improving compliance and assurance in the meat processing industry.

The review looked at how the current arrangements could work better, and focused on tackling the root causes of common issues.

The recommendations, which are subject to the approval of each organisation’s Board, are designed to prioritise food safety and improve overall industry standards in the meat supply chain.

The 19 recommendations for industry and regulators include:

  • Greater involvement of industry to produce clearer guidance to meet the needs of food businesses
  • Increased focus on skills and capabilities across industry
  • Greater data transparency and sharing across industry and with the regulators
  • More effective use of data by regulatory authorities and improved regulatory coordination and consistency
  • Trialling the feasibility of using a single organisation to deliver all official controls in a geographic location

“We launched this review following a series of high profile events over the last 12 months at a number of meat businesses,” says Jason Feeney, chief executive of the Food Standards Agency. “These incidents cast a shadow over the whole sector and not just the businesses directly at fault. This challenged consumer confidence and trust in the industry as a whole.

“This in-depth review has identified actions that the meat industry and the regulatory authorities can take to make improvements.

“There are good reasons why the meat industry has specific controls in place to protect public health and provide assurance about the authenticity of meat products on the market.

‘We are pleased the industry participated so fully in this approach, and we expect them to continue to work with us to deliver the recommendations once they have been agreed.”

Adds Geoff Ogle, chief executive of Food Standards Scotland: “This review is essential for ensuring the public continues to have full confidence in the safety of the UK’s meat industry. The majority of our meat sector acts responsibly ensuring food safety compliance across their process, and it is important that the actions of a minority do not damage the reputation of the whole sector.

“When our respective Boards have agreed the next steps, we will work to deliver the improvements identified. All decisions and actions will continue to be taken in the best interests of consumers and will be based on the evidence base and expert scientific advice. We all have a part to play in ensuring the safety of our meat and meat products.”

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