It is intended to resolve disputes between official veterinarians (OVs) and slaughter plant operators arising after carcasses are declared unfit for human consumption.
The announcement was reportedly made by the FSA’s chief executive Jason Feeney at last weekend’s conference of the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS) in Leeds.
AIMS represents abattoirs and processors of all sizes in the independent sector. Small and medium-sized abattoirs are said to handle more than 50% of the nation’s animals sent for slaughter, including those intended for traditional, ethnic and other specialist market requirements.
Feeney is said to have announced that when slaughterhouse operators were unwilling to voluntarily surrender carcases that OVs had declared unfit, a two-stage appeals system would be provided.
The first stage would involve a vet of the slaughter plant’s choice holding a discussion with the OV and a senior FSA vet in the hope of reaching a consensus as to whether the carcase was fit or unfit. While this was expected to resolve most disputes, should agreement not be reached, the business would have the option of going to a magistrate to challenge the OV’s decision, AIMs reported.
Operators hoped this arrangement would resolve a long-standing dispute between the industry and FSA, which AIMS claimed had been fought out in the courts at considerable expense to both sides.
AIMS is at present awaiting a decision from the Supreme Court on whether it would hear an appeal against a High Court judgment that Section 9 of the Food Safety Act, which had provided a suitable right of appeal for almost a century, could no longer be used. The proposed appeals system would mean that the court action need no longer be pursued.
AIMS described the FSA’s willingness to engage with it to achieve a “common sense and fair solution” as a “major step forward” in rebuilding the trust between abattoir operators and the Agency.
“AIMS has received financial support for its legal action from numerous AIMS members and all sectors of the meat and livestock industries and is very pleased that this support has led to a satisfactory conclusion,” said Norman Bagley, head of policy at AIMS.
In response, an FSA spokesman said: “We are working closely with the meat industry on a new process to improve how disputes relating to meat declared unfit for human consumption are resolved.
“The detail of how the system will work is still being worked through but the ambition is clear.
“We will continue to work with relevant organisations on these proposals over the coming weeks.”