The FSA said it has written to abattoir owners inviting them to share their views on some changes being considered for how the FSA delivers official controls through official veterinarians.
The news comes as the Public Accounts Committee report last week identified there is a critical shortage of vets in the UK linked to many factors, including Covid-19, EU Exit, increased demand for vets for Export Health Certification, and increases in pet ownership.
The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeon figures show that between 2019 and 2021 joiners to the UK veterinary profession fell by 26%, while 2020 saw the highest number of vets leaving UK practice in 10 years.
Struggling to recruit
The report said that UK regulators were “struggling to recruit and retain the skills they need to regulate effectively” in their new and expanded roles post EU exit. Progress on developing long-term regulatory strategies post-EU Exit has been slow, and the future direction of UK regulation still unclear.
It said there are particular shortages of vets to monitor food safety and animal welfare in abattoirs and toxicologists to assess food risks and chemical safety, and lawyers and economists to enforce competition law.
However, the report also highlighted that the FSA has worked with the Royal College of Veterinarians to agree temporary arrangements that allows those who need to improve their language skills in English to stay for 12 months.
It is also looking at ways to make a career in veterinary public health more attractive to UK-qualified vets as well, including directly employing veterinarians to provide more career progression, reviewing pay and exploring ways to make roles more flexible, the report added.
Junior Johnson, director of Operations at FSA, said: “Despite challenges in veterinary recruitment, the FSA has maintained full and ongoing service delivery of official controls in abattoirs and there has been no interruption in service to date.
“Official veterinarians are however, in very short supply, and we are working with partners to find solutions to what is a systemic resourcing issue so that the FSA can continue to provide a reliable service to industry and uphold food safety, protect animal health and welfare, and enable businesses to sell food domestically and abroad.”