The Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Food Standards Scotland (FSS) have announced details of a major review of hygiene controls in meat processing and storage sites in the UK.
The announcement comes as organisation continue to respond to the 2 Sisters Food Group scandal, which has shone the spotlight on hygiene and food safety practices within the meat supply chain.
The 2 Sisters incident last year has been followed by the discovery of breaches in other plants across the UK resulting from unannounced plant inspections by the FSA. The Derbyshire-based Russell Hume Group went into administration in mid-February after the FSA ordered it to stop production at its six sites, while other companies have voluntarily recalled meat products after breaches were uncovered.
The review, covering all types of cutting plants, will include unannounced inspections and audit regimes.
It will aim to increase public and stakeholder confidence in the meat industry and its regulation and improve the ability to identify non-compliance and take prompt action to minimise the risk to public health and food safety.
It will incorporate:
- How the current legislation works and the guidance supporting it
- How the ‘official controls’ are carried out
- The roles and responsibilities of food businesses, regulators and assurance bodies
- How incidents are managed and responded to.
In a joint statement, FSA and FSS chief executives Jason Feeney and Geoff Ogle said: “We are concerned about recent instances of companies breaching hygiene rules.
“People rightly expect food businesses to keep to the rules, rules designed to keep consumers safe and to sustain public trust in food – and food businesses have a duty to follow the regulations. Our review will be far reaching and thorough and we will announce our initial findings in June.”
“We are pleased that the meat industry representatives who we met with have pledged their full and effective engagement with the review.”
The announcement came as the FSA published an update to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee’s inquiry into standards in poultry processing and the findings of the FSA’s investigation into 2 Sisters Food Group.
In response to the inquiry, the FSA will work with industry on a voluntary protocol for adoption of CCTV in meat processing plants and will consult on legislating to implement them if necessary. It will also be running pilots to improve data and intelligence sharing across the industry and is pursuing increased investigatory powers for the National Food Crime Unit.
The FSA said its investigation into the 2 Sisters Food Group has been ‘extensive and thorough and looked across their poultry sites’.
NPA senior policy advisor Georgina Crayford said: “British pig producers work hard to ensure that rules and regulations around food safety and food quality are met on farm. It’s important that this attention to detail/compliance is continued right along the supply chain.
“News of issues with hygiene controls in meat processing plants damages consumer confidence in the meat industry, which will also negatively impact pig farmers.
“NPA is confident that the vast majority of meat processors are fully compliant with the rules and this review will give them a chance to demonstrate that. But it is important that in the rare cases where standards are slipping, the situation is addressed to maintain these standards and reassure consumers.”