Its report, due to be presented at the next FSA board meeting later this month, highlighted that the approvals process for meat establishments was “largely paper-based, and there is some evidence of inconsistency in training for officers carrying out approval assessments”.
It also identified some evidence from Local Authorities (LA) of variable communications when establishments transition between FSA/FSS and LA approval responsibility. It stated: “Feedback from FSA/FSS staff workshops indicates that communications between inspection and audit functions could be more consistent or coordinated.”
There were also questions over the focus of guidance for the meat industry.
“There is a comprehensive framework of legislation and guidance in place for FSA/FSS and Local Authority Competent Authorities but guidance focuses predominantly on hygiene issues, rather than durability; there is no specific guidance on checks that should be carried out on cold stores following their approval.”
The review was instigated following incidents of non-compliance at cutting plants operated by 2 Sisters Food Group and Russell Hume.
So far it has yielded satisfactory results for the FSA and FSS. “Based on the findings to date we do not believe that current meat industry practices present a systemic risk to public health, but the overall system of assurance and regulation does require modernisation. We have identified several areas for improvement and we will now work with stakeholders to develop proposals which can address those issues in the short and longer term.”
The review will report and make recommendations to FSA and FSS boards in September 2018.
Earlier this week, the FSA announced that it had removed emergency measures in operation at 2 Sisters Food Group plants including full-time presence. Both the FSA and 2 Sisters said they would be working together to share data.