FSA & FSS launch UK meat processing plants review

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Food Standards Scotland (FSS) are today publishing details of a major review into the sites where meat products are processed and stored in the UK.

The two agencies have announced the launch of comprehensive review of hygiene controls, which includes unannounced inspections and audit regimes

The FSA is to:
• Work with industry to implement CCTV across cutting plants
• Increased intelligence gathering through audit data sharing pilots across industry
• Improved insight into circumstances and factors leading to non-compliances and ability to anticipate them

Also published today is the FSA’s 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.

FSA's Chief Executive Jason Feeney (pictured) and FSS's Chief Executive, Geoff Ogle, jointly commented, “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 review being launched today will aim to:
• Increase public and stakeholder confidence in the meat industry and its regulation
• Improve the ability to identify non-compliance and take prompt action to minimise the risk to public health and food safety
• Assess how the industry currently operates across the whole supply chain.
• Increase awareness of circumstances and factors which can lead to non-compliance

The scope of the review will incorporate:
• All types of cutting plants (red meat, white meat and game)
• How the current legislation works and the guidance supporting it
• How the ‘official controls’ are carried out which must be followed to ensure compliance with hygiene legislative requirements (this includes audits, inspections, sampling and surveillance)
• The roles and responsibilities of food businesses, regulators and assurance bodies
• How incidents are managed and responded to
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee inquiry and findings from 2 Sisters Food Group investigation.

Assurance bodies, 2 Sisters Food Group and the FSA have also responded to recommendations made by the Parliamentary inquiry into poultry cutting plants. We have also published the outcome of FSA’s investigation into allegations of food hygiene and standards breaches at 2 Sisters.

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.

FSA 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 investigation into 2 Sisters Food Group has been extensive and thorough and looked across their poultry sites.

Five hundres hours of CCTV from the site were examined along with audit information from major retailers. The company voluntarily ceased production at one site whilst changes were made and staff re-trained. The FSA have had a permanent presence at their cutting plants for the last four months.

Feeney said, “Our investigation found some areas for improvement but the issues were resolved promptly by the company, who co-operated fully, and at no point did we find it necessary to take formal enforcement action.”

“The business has made a wide range of improvements across all their sites to improve processes. They are already publishing the outcomes of all their audits and are in the process of installing high quality CCTV across their estate that we will have full access to. These are measures we would like the whole industry to adopt.”