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Slaughter Process: Traceability of Meat

Viscount Torrington asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Donoughue: The traceability and accurate identification throughout the slaughter process of individual animals supplied by specialist producers' depends on the integrity of the commercial service offered by the slaughterhouse rather than the size of the operation. Producers should select a slaughterhouse which offers the appropriate independently verified assurance guarantees such as those provided by Assured British Meat.

Official Veterinary Surgeons: Recognition of Species

Lord Willoughby de Broke asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Donoughue: No measures are taken. By virtue of their comprehensive training in anatomy and other

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veterinary science all official veterinary surgeons are capable of distinguishing between meat animals of different species once the animals are slaughtered and skinned.

Fresh Meat Regulations: Definition of "Hygiene"

Lord Willoughby de Broke asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What definition of the term "hygiene" is adopted by the official veterinary surgeons and veterinary officials attached to the Joint Food Standards and Safety Group for the purpose of implementing the Fresh Meat (Hygiene and Inspection) Regulations 1995.[HL2883]

Lord Donoughue: The Fresh Meat (Hygiene and Inspection) Regulations 1995, as amended, do not define the term "hygiene". However, Schedule 7 to those regulations obliges occupiers of licensed premises to keep them, or cause them to be kept, in such a state of cleanliness and otherwise so conduct them as to prevent the risk of contamination of any fresh meat in the premises. It is an offence for a person to sell fresh meat for human consumption where it has not been prepared in accordance with, inter alia, Schedule 7.

Principal Official Veterinary Surgeons

Lord Willoughby de Broke asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many principal official veterinary surgeons are employed by the Meat Hygiene Service.[HL2936]

Lord Donoughue: Thirty Principal Official Veterinary Surgeons are directly employed by the Meat Hygiene Service.

Slaughterhouses: Meat Hygiene Service Manning Levels

The Earl of Lytton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in low throughput slaughterhouses staffed by a single meat hygiene inspector and one official veterinary surgeon who are both present throughout slaughtering hours, they will consider dispensing completely with the services of the inspector and arranging for the official veterinary surgeon to carry out ante-mortem and post-mortem inspections alone.[HL2885]

Lord Donoughue: The Meat Hygiene Service keeps manning levels in slaughterhouses under continual review, in order to ensure the provision of a cost-effective service.

In some low throughput slaughterhouses the service is provided by an official veterinary surgeon and no meat hygiene inspector is present.

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Official Veterinary Surgeons: Transfer Between Plants

The Earl of Lytton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How long individual official veterinary surgeons should be expected to work at any specific meat or cutting plant before being transferred to another plant; and whether frequent changes of official veterinary surgeons are conducive to good enforcement practices.[HL2886]

Lord Donoughue: There is no established rule relating to the length of time individual official veterinary surgeons (OVSs) are expected to work at a particular meat or cutting plant before being transferred to another one.

However, as all OVSs are required to carry out their enforcement duties to the same standards, any change in OVS at a particular plant should have no effect on the enforcement practices carried out there.

Slaughterhouses: Telephone Costs for OVSs

The Earl of Lytton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether licensed meat or cutting plant operators are required by law to bear the costs of providing telephones in offices allocated for the use of official veterinary surgeons; and whether they are obliged to pay for calls made by official veterinary surgeons in the course of their duties.[HL2887]

Lord Donoughue: The Fresh Meat (Hygiene and Inspection) Regulations 1995 (SI 1995/539) require that the occupier of licensed premises:



    "shall ensure that an OVS, inspector or veterinary officer is provided with adequate facilities so as to enable him to carry out his duties under these Regulations and that he is given such reasonable assistance . . . as he may from time to time require for that purpose".

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    Our legal interpretation is that this should include the provision of reasonable office accommodation, and the use of a telephone, where this is necessary to enable the official to carry out his responsibilities under the Regulations.

Where the cost of telephone calls made by OVSs in the course of their duties relates to the meat inspection and welfare exercise at the relevant plant, we believe that the cost of such calls should fall to the plant operator as it constitutes part of what we consider to be the provision of "adequate facilities".

Honey Production and GM Crops

The Earl of Haddington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many complaints they have received, in each of the last five years for each of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, from apiarists, or apiarist societies or associations, concerning the proximity of genetically modified crops to their sites of honey production.[HL2866]

Lord Donoughue: The Government have received few formal complaints from beekeepers about genetically modified plants, but around 30 letters have been received from beekeepers expressing concern about the problem. All were received during the past 12 months.

Pilot Animal Quarantine Scheme: Channel Tunnel

Lord Hoyle asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will include the Channel Tunnel in the Pilot Animal Quarantine Scheme.[HL2973]

Lord Donoughue: Discussions are under way with Eurotunnel to this effect.

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