The group will focus on the UK-wide review of cutting plants announced in early February in the wake of non-compliance incidents at various plants in both England and Scotland.
It is hoped the review will “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” and “increase awareness of circumstances and factors which can lead to non-compliance”.
The scope of the cutting plant review will include 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; and how incidents are managed and responded to.
The group has been appointed in order to provide scrutiny of the process by having the ability and authority to challenge the activities being carried out against the objectives that have been set, while also being able to bring to bear their outside perspective and wealth of experience.
The group members were welcomed into their roles by Jason Feeney and Geoff Ogle, chief executives of the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Food Standards Scotland (FSS) respectively.
The group is chaired by Alexis Cleveland, who was previously the chair of the board for the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) and the Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA). It also includes Isobel Garner, current chair of the Wales Audit Office; Nigel Gibbens, who was the UK Chief Veterinary Officer for close to a decade; and Uel Morton, co-chair of the Scottish Food Commission and previous chief executive of Quality Meat Scotland.
The review is expected to provide regular updates to the FSS and FSA board meetings in May, June and August before final recommendations and delivery plan are presented in September 2018.
In February, representatives from the English and Scottish meat industries met with the FSA and FSS respectively over recent cases of non-compliance in the meat sector. Both sets of talks were hailed as “constructive”, with trade bodies and enforcement agencies citing the importance of collaboration.