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Slaughterhouses: Specified Risk Material

Baroness Wharton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Donoughue: The occupier of a slaughterhouse is responsible for ensuring that all SRM is removed from a carcass before it is presented for inspection. Failure to do so is an offence under the Specified Risk Material Regulations 1997, for which it is the Government's policy to bring a prosecution in any case in which the evidence is considered sufficient and it is in the public interest so to do. This policy would not be affected by the introduction of charges for the SRM controls, which for this financial year continue to be government-funded.

Slaughterhouses: Recording of Conversations with OVSs and MHSs

Baroness Wharton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Donoughue: No.

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Slaughterhouses: Inspection Entry to Administration Offices

Baroness Wharton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether official veterinary surgeons or any other Meat Hygiene Service personnel have any statutory rights of entry to administration offices, maintained by slaughterhouse owners or operators for the conduct of their businesses, where no fresh meat or other foodstuff is handled.[HL2878]

Lord Donoughue: The Fresh Meat (Hygiene and Inspection) Regulations 1995 and the Poultry Meat, Farmed Game Bird Meat and Rabbit Meat (Hygiene and Inspection) Regulations 1995 require the occupier of a licensed slaughterhouse to ensure that the official veterinary surgeon and meat hygiene inspector are given such reasonable assistance and access to records as they may from time to time require in order to carry out their duties under those regulations. This may involve allowing the officials concerned access to the part of the premises where the records are kept.

Slaughterhouses: OVS Charges

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the time expended by official veterinary surgeons in licensed meat or cutting plants in respect of the Hygiene Assessment Scheme which are not directly related to the enforcement of the statutory provisions of the Fresh Meat (Hygiene and Inspection) Regulations 1995 is charged to the plant operators at the plants to which the official veterinary surgeons are attached.[HL2868]

Lord Donoughue: The time spent by official veterinary surgeons compiling monthly hygiene assessment system (HAS) scores in licensed slaughterhouses and cutting plants is charged to plant operators as HAS is an integral part of OVS supervision and inspection in such premises and is therefore directly related to the enforcement of the statutory provisions of the Fresh Meat (Hygiene and Inspection) Regulations 1995 at those premises.

Meat Hygiene Service Enforcement Powers

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What safeguards exist to prevent official veterinary surgeons from requiring, by means of improvement notices, downgrading of hygiene assessment scores or other enforcement activities, any works or actions which are not statutory requirements; and [HL2871]

    What safeguards exist to prevent Meat Hygiene Service staff employed in enforcement duties in meat plants from failing to distinguish between works or actions which are statutory requirements and those which are non-statutory requirements, when requiring

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    or recommending works or actions by meat or cutting plant owners or staff.[HL2872]

Lord Donoughue: Chapter 18 of the Meat Hygiene Service (MHS) Operations Manual provides MHS staff with detailed instructions as to their enforcement responsibilities. It makes a clear distinction between statutory and non-statutory requirements.

Meat Hygiene Service Staff

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many staff of the Meat Hygiene Service, since 1 April 1995, have been convicted of criminal offences committed during the course of their employment with the Meat Hygiene Service.[HL2929]

Lord Donoughue: To the best of our knowledge, no staff have been convicted of criminal offences during the course of their employment with the Meat Hygiene Service.

To ensure that enforcement action is appropriate, reasonable and proportionate, principal official veterinary surgeons (POVSs) acting as circuit supervisors routinely visit plant-based MHS staff to assist them in their enforcement activities.

Should a plant owner or operator believe that inappropriate enforcement action has been taken by MHS staff, they are at liberty to take the matter up with either the POVS, or the MHS regional management team in accordance with MHS complaints and appeals procedures.

Slaughterhouses: Sterilisation of Knives

Viscount Addison asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What studies they have carried out on the effect of routine sterilisation of knives and other tools in use in slaughterhouses, and in particular as to the effect on the total microbial count on the meat produced.[HL2980]

Lord Donoughue: None. It is the duty of the occupier of licensed premises to carry out such checks.

Slaughterhouses: Post-mortem Inspection of Carcasses

Viscount Addison asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have assessed the degree to which the contamination burden on meat is increased as a result of post-mortem inspection of carcasses by Meat Hygiene Inspectors in accordance with the Fresh Meat (Hygiene and Inspection) Regulations 1995.[HL2981]

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Lord Donoughue: No. However, the Government are aware that some studies have shown that some meat inspection procedures increase the risk of contamination. The Government are therefore supportive of initiatives, at Community level, for making post-mortem inspection procedures more risk-based.

Slaughterhouses: Humidity

Viscount Addison asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What studies they have carried out to determine the effect of the implementation of requirements under the Fresh Meat (Hygiene and Inspection) Regulations 1995 on increasing the humidity in slaughterhouses and the effect thereby on the keeping quality of meat.[HL2983]

Lord Donoughue: None. Licensed premises must have suitable and sufficient ventilation systems, including, where necessary, adequate means of steam extraction.

E.coli 0157

Viscount Addison asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What studies they have carried out to determine whether the Meat Hygiene Service clean animals campaign has resulted in a lower incidence overall of E.coli 0157 in finished carcasses.[HL2985]

Lord Donoughue: None. However, the development of the Meat Hygiene Service Clean Livestock Policy was based on research which demonstrated a clear link between fleeces and hides contaminated with dung and the microbial load of dressed carcasses (e.g. research by Hadley, Holder and Hinton, Effects of fleece soiling and skinning methods on the microbiology of sheep carcasses, Veterinary Record, 31 May 1997).

Lord Willoughby de Broke asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What specific actions are taken by official veterinary surgeons and meat hygiene inspectors to identify E.coli 0157 contamination on visibly clean carcasses during post-mortem examination.[HL2884]

Lord Donoughue: None. It is not possible to identify E.coli 0157 bacteria by the organoleptic post-mortem inspection carried out by official veterinary surgeons and meat hygiene inspectors, as laid down in EU meat hygiene rules.

Slaughterhouses: Meat Hygiene Service Instructions

Lord Addington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it is appropriate for the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to initiate or threaten prosecutions of slaughterhouse licence holders for

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    alleged offences under the Fresh Meat (Hygiene and Inspection) Regulations which arise directly from actions or instructions of staff of the Meat Hygiene Service.[HL3027]

Lord Donoughue: The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, when initiating prosecutions, acts in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors, and will consider both whether there is sufficient evidence and whether it is in the public interest for the prosecution to be taken. Part of that consideration necessarily includes any defences or mitigation that the prospective defendant might advance, including instructions or advice given by officials.

Meat Hygiene Service Remit

Lord Shepherd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have any plans to extend the remit of the Meat Hygiene Service to include inspection of premises other than licensed slaughterhouses, poultry processing plants, cutting plants and cold stores.[HL3016]

Lord Donoughue: There are no plans to extend the remit of the Meat Hygiene Service.


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