FSA consults on changes to legislation on emergency slaughter meat

Changes to EU food hygiene rules introduced by Regulation (EU) 218/2014 mean that from June 1, 2014, restrictions on the marketing of meat from animals slaughtered outside of an approved slaughterhouse (emergency slaughter meat) and the requirement for such meat to be specially health marked have been removed as long as the meat successfully passes the ante-mortem and post-mortem inspections by veterinarians.

The Food Standards Agency is now consulting on this issue as intervention is needed to amend English national food hygiene legislation to bring it in step with EU food hygiene legislation. This will mean removal of references to the form of the special health mark for emergency slaughter meat used in England, to ensure that the mark (covering carcases and packaged meat) is no longer required.

There will alsobbe a communications process to ensure that there’s no uncertainty for businesses or enforcement as to how emergency slaughter meat is health marked, labelled and traded.

Emergency slaughter of animals outside approved establishments is permitted but only in cases where the animal has suffered an accident and cannot be transported to a slaughterhouse for welfare reasons (bovine animals are most commonly subject to emergency slaughter because of the relatively high value of these animals).

In order that the meat can enter the food chain, the animal must be otherwise healthy and a veterinarian must carry out an ante-mortem inspection of the animal prior to slaughter and confirm that prior to the accident the animal was healthy and was eligible for slaughter.

The slaughtered and bled animal must then be transported hygienically to the slaughterhouse without undue delay, accompanied by a favourable ante-mortem assessment of the animal signed by the veterinarian.

Prior to the latest EU legislation being adopted, a view prevailed that emergency slaughter meat was of a lesser quality and unsuitable for marketing between EU Member States or for export to third countries. Consequently EU regulations have previuously required such meat to be marketed solely in the country of slaughter and for the carcase and products derived from the carcase to bear a special health mark to distinguish it from meat slaughtered in an approved slaughterhouse. However, the UK has always considered that if the meat from such animals is considered fit for human consumption at post-mortem inspection, then there should be no restriction on where the meat can be marketed, or a need for a special mark.

This view has now prevailed among EU Member States and the new regulations mean that emergency slaughter meat from carcases that have successfully passed the necessary veterinary inspections should not be treated differently from animals slaughtered in an approved slaughterhouse.

The new regulation doesn’t have a direct impact on farmers. The amendment doesn’t introduce any new requirements on farmers, or any changes to the process associated with emergency slaughter. The only difference is that slaughterhouses and cutting plants no longer need to apply a special health mark.

However, the FSA understands that emergency slaughtered meat was previously considered to be of lesser quality and therefore carried a lower price. As emergency slaughtered meat is now considered to be no different than conventionally slaughtered meat, this means that farmers might now receive a higher price for their emergency slaughtered meat, which could represent a benefit.

Full details of the consultation can be found at: http://www.food.gov.uk/news-updates/consultations/consultations-england/2014/feedandfoodcontrols2014

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