Meat firms slam FSA over bullying list

By Dan Colombini

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Fsa

The BMPA has criticised the FSA for submitting the names of firms where reports of bullying have occured
The BMPA has criticised the FSA for submitting the names of firms where reports of bullying have occured
Meat producers have hit out at the Food Standards Agency (FSA) after it revealed a list of UK firms where alleged incidents of bullying and harassment have been reported over the past two years.

The list was a response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request from trade union Unison which, the FSA claimed, it had a “general duty to disclose”.

But meat firms have slammed the move and said the decision “flies in the face of natural justice​”, fearing it could have serious consequences for the businesses involved.

Stephen Rossides, director at the British Meat Processors Association, claimed the list was an open licence for any organisation or individual with a “political motivation​” or grudge to make malicious allegations against the wider meat industry.

Commercial consequences

He said: “[This could have]potentially serious reputational and commercial consequences for the businesses affected. It flies in the face of natural justice, and is not right or fair.

“The FSA should properly investigate and substantiate incidents through independent channels. It needs to get a proper handle on the scale and nature of the issue so that it can work with us to tackle any problems on the basis of objective information, not unsubstantiated allegations​.”    

Rossides also stressed that all forms of the allegations on the list were wholly unacceptable.

The report includes the names of meat plants where allegations of bullying and harassment were reported to the FSA between August 31 2009 and August 31 last year. The information includes accusations of aggressive behaviour, physical assault, verbal abuse, intimidation and malicious damage to property.

The outcomes of the allegations have not been included in the report, however, as the request was for reported incidents only, according to the FSA.

Disciplinary action

In some cases, disciplinary action was taken, but most incidents were resolved informally by plant managers addressing the issues raised by FSA managers with their staff​,” an FSA statement revealed.

It should not be assumed, therefore, that any formal findings have been made as to the liability for reported incidents of the businesses identified​.”

FoodManufacture.co.uk reported in February that the FSA was threatening to withdraw inspectors from abattoirs and primary cutting plants that failed to deal with a culture of bullying, which is said to be "endemic​" across the industry.

Speaking at the FSA board meeting in January, FSA chief executive Tim Smith said: "There is a fundamental issue that needs to be dealt with. The industry in general is in denial that there is a problem of any significance."

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