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Meat Hygiene

Lord Swinfen asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Donoughue: The Government believe that maintenance of a centralised meat hygiene service remains fully justified. The performance of the Meat Hygiene Service will be overseen and monitored by the Food Standards Agency.

Lord Swinfen asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Lord Donoughue: The Government see no incompatibility between the guiding principles for the Food Standards Agency as proposed in the White Paper and its responsibility for the Meat Hygiene Service. Both the Food Standards Agency and the Meat Hygiene Service have as their main objective the protection of public health in relation to food.

The Earl of Denbigh asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action would be expected of a slaughterhouse owner when served with an Improvement Notice by an Official Veterinary Surgeon which required him to "implement a hazard analysis system to prevent hygiene".[HL3040]

Lord Donoughue: The slaughterhouse owner would be expected to point out the obvious drafting error to the Official Veterinary Surgeon, thus enabling an amended Improvement Notice to be issued.

The Earl of Denbigh asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will define the term "customer" in the context of the relationship between slaughterhouse owners and the Meat Hygiene Service.[HL3041]

Lord Donoughue: The Meat Hygiene Service provides a statutory meat inspection service to all licensed fresh meat premises. It refers to all of those to whom it provides such a service as customers.

Lady Kinloss asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Who, in the event of a dispute between the proposed Food Standards Agency and the Meat Hygiene Service, as to the service's performance targets set by the agency, will arbitrate, or whether the agency will have sole authority to set and enforce its targets.[HL3316]

Lord Donoughue: The proposed Food Standards Agency will have sole authority to set and enforce performance targets for the Meat Hygiene Service.

Lady Kinloss asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the proposal to integrate the Meat Hygiene Service into the proposed Food Standards Agency is sound, since the relationship will allow senior officials of the Meat Hygiene service to attribute to the agency any failures to meet performance standards, by virtue of the agency having approved its spending and operations plans.[HL3317]

Lord Donoughue: Yes. The Chief Executive of the Meat Hygiene Service will remain accountable for the performance of that service.

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Lady Kinloss asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are aware of any scientific research which indicates that the post mortem inspection procedures applied to carcasses in slaughterhouses, carried out in accordance with the provisions of the Fresh Meat Directive 91/497/EEC, are themselves a significant cause of contamination in fresh meat.[HL3319]

Lord Donoughue: Yes. 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.

Earl Grey asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How the proposed Food Standards Agency will ensure fairness in its auditing teams which assess the performance of the Meat Hygiene Service, when those officers will be aware that any shortcomings of the service might reflect on the agency which employs them; and how will they prevent pressure by senior officers of the agency being applied to auditors to tone down criticism of under-performance.[HL3309]

Lord Donoughue: The precise arrangements will be a matter for the Food Standards Agency (FSA) Board once it has been appointed. It is envisaged however, that the Board of the FSA will establish a sub-committee with external members to supervise the MHS. Under this arrangement, those responsible in the FSA for the audit of the MHS would report direct to the sub committee. In addition, the State Veterinary Service of MAFF (SRM controls), the National Audit Office, (finance and accounts), the British Standards Institution (quality standards) and inspectors of the European Commission's Food and Veterinary Office (implementation of Community law) will all continue their independent audits of those elements of the MHS activities in which they have an interest.

Lord Palmer asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in the event of a complaint from a consumer regarding unfit red meat or poultry for human consumption, where the unfitness results from a condition which could have or should have been apparent during a post mortem inspection of the carcass from which the meat was derived and the carcass had been duly inspected by Meat Hygiene Service staff, the owner or operator of the plant from which the meat originated has any legal liability for the condition of that meat.[HL3329]

Lord Donoughue: Yes. Both the Fresh Meat (Hygiene and Inspection) Regulations 1995 (as amended) and the Poultry Meat, Farmed Game Bird Meat and Rabbit Meat (Hygiene and Inspection) Regulations 1995 place an obligation on the occupiers of licensed premises, inter alia, to take all necessary measures to ensure that at all stages of production the requirements of the regulations are complied with and to carry out checks (including any microbiological

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checks the Minister may require) on the general hygiene of conditions of production in the establishment to ensure that all equipment and, if necessary, fresh meat, comply with the requirements of the regulations. The fact that a condition was not noted by MHS staff does not absolve the occupier of this obligation.

Lord Palmer asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What stage the European Commission infraction proceedings have reached, in respect of non-compliance by the United Kingdom with the veterinary attendance provisions of the Fresh Meat Directive and the Poultrymeat Directive.[HL3331]

Lord Donoughue: The European Commission's infraction proceedings against the United Kingdom for non-compliance with the veterinary supervision requirements of the Fresh Meat Directive (64/433/EEC, as amended) have reached the Reasoned Opinion stage.

The European Commission has not initiated infraction proceedings against the United Kingdom for non-compliance with the veterinary supervision requirements of the Poultrymeat Directive (7l/118/EEC).

Lord Blyth asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What arrangements exist for compensating licensed slaughterhouse owners and operators for losses suffered as a result of actions by Meat Hygiene Service staff which have subsequently been proved, or admitted, to have been unjustified.[HL3076]

Lord Donoughue: Slaughterhouses are entitled to submit a claim for compensation to the Meat Hygiene Service (MHS) where they believe that actions by MHS staff have been unjustified.

Lord Blyth asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it is permissible for Official Veterinary Surgeons to deduct marks from a Hygiene Assessment Scheme score on the grounds that a contravention of statutory requirements has been observed and then, on determining that the claimed statutory requirements do not exist, to deduct the same number of marks because the observed practice does not confirm with claimed but unpublished "best practice".[HL3077]

Lord Donoughue: Instructions to Official Veterinary Surgeons for the completion of Hygiene Assessment System (HAS) scores are set out comprehensively in the MHS Operations Manual, and the distinction between statutory requirements and best practice is clearly identified.

The HAS awards higher scores in premises where best practice is observed which may be over and above the minimum statutory requirements.

Lord Blyth asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether there are any benefits in requiring slaughterhouse owners to carry out testing of mains water supplies, where the water is supplied by statutory undertakers to minimum standards of purity which conform to European Union requirements and which is frequently tested by those undertakers.[HL3079]

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Lord Donoughue: Yes. Water can become contaminated within the slaughterhouse's own water system before use.


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