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The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Donoughue: The survey by Hudson and others was carried out in a structured sample of beef abattoirs made up of four large premises with powered lines, three medium sized premises with manually-operated lines and three smaller units using cradle dressing. No slaughterhouse in the study with a high mean HAS score had a high mean microbiological count or vice versa. All five premises with mean HAS scores of 63 or better had mean TVC counts of 3.13 or less. All six premises with mean HAS scores of 54 or worse had mean TVC counts of 3.14 or worse.

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Lord Donoughue: No. Data are not available to make such comparisons.

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the scientific basis to the revised Hygiene Assessment Scheme, due to be implemented on 1 July 1999.[HL3303]

Lord Donoughue: The basis of the revised Hygiene Assessment System (HAS) for monitoring hygiene standards in licensed slaughterhouses and cutting plants is unchanged. The previous system set criteria for two of the four available markings for each aspect of hygiene in plants. The new HAS guidance, developed with industry help, sets criteria for all four markings, to help ensure the application of common standards in all premises.

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What measures are taken by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to ensure that poultry and poultry meat imported from European Union countries comply with the latest Commission Decision on dioxin contamination and with poultry meat hygiene directives; how many checks have been conducted on these products in the last 12 months; in how many cases have infringements been found; and what action was taken when directives had not been adhered to.[HL3336]

Lord Donoughue: The various Commission Decisions adopted in response to the dioxin contamination incident have been transposed into UK law by way of the Food (Animals and Animal Products from Belgium) (Emergency Control) Order 1999 and the Animal Feedingstuffs from Belgium (Control) Regulations 1999 (both as amended).

Ensuring that all member states comply with their Community obligations in properly implementing and applying the poultry meat hygiene (and other meat hygiene) directives is the responsibility of the European Commission, whose Food and Veterinary Office carries out regular programmes of inspection visits to all member states. Their reports are considered by the Standing Veterinary Committee in Brussels, and, if necessary, the Commission will take infraction proceedings against member states whose arrangements are considered inadequate.

Single Market rules only permit random spot-checks at destination on products traded within the Community. In the UK, random checks may be carried out by a number of bodies, including local authorities. Information on these checks is not collected centrally.

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether imported Italian chicken is packed in accordance with European hygiene directives; and what action they propose to take to ensure compliance with European Union legislation.[HL3337]

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Lord Donoughue: Consignments of fresh meat sent to the UK must be packaged in accordance with specific rules laid down in EU legislation, regardless of their country of origin. Ministry officials have raised the matter of inadequate packaging with the Italian authorities in the past and have received suitable assurances from them. Nevertheless, we have asked producers to report any apparent transgressions of EU rules to Meat Hygiene Service staff and to the relevant local authorities so that they may be investigated.

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether there is a discrepancy between the Written Answers by Lord Donoughue on 16 June (WA 28) and 23 June (WA 96) where in the former he states that: "The Hygiene Assessment System (HAS) monitors the hygiene of licensed slaughterhouse and cutting plant operations, it does not assess their compliance with statutory and non-statutory requirements", and in the latter he states that the HAS is "an integral part of Official Veterinary Surgeon supervision ... and is therefore directly related to the enforcement of the statutory provisions of the Fresh Meat (Hygiene and Inspection) Regulations 1995"; and whether, if the later reply is correct, the criteria used for assessing HAS scores should be confined to statutory requirements.[HL3338]

Lord Donoughue: There is no discrepancy between my previous answers. Operators are required to adhere to the meat hygiene regulations and Official Veterinary Surgeons (OVSs) will enforce the regulations where necessary. As part of their supervisory duties, OVSs will monitor the hygiene of the operation by means of the Hygiene Assessment System (HAS). Hygiene conditions which result in the award of "c" and "d" HAS scores indicate contraventions of the regulations and so HAS can be used as a check that appropriate enforcement action has been taken. Hygiene conditions which result in the award of "b" scores indicate satisfactory compliance with statutory requirements, while "a" scores indicate that best practice, over and above the legal requirements, has been applied. The Government wish to encourage high hygiene standards and it is therefore entirely appropriate that the Hygiene Assessment System allows extra points to be given where the highest standards are practised.

Lord Stanley of Alderley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in the absence of any significant level of morbidity in lambs presented for slaughter in United Kingdom slaughterhouses, and in view of the fact that the animals from which the carcasses are derived are subject to ante mortem examination, there is any measurable public health benefit in requiring the post mortem inspection of lambs, other than by way of a sample of lambs from each flock or batch presented.[HL3230]

Lord Donoughue: In view of the low levels of morbidity in lambs presented for slaughter, restricting post mortem inspection to a sample from each flock or

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batch would not be an effective method of detecting the small percentage of carcasses which pose a risk to public health.

Lord Stanley of Alderley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have commissioned, are aware of, or will commission, any detailed scientific studies to demonstrate that the rapid cooling of carcasses after the slaughter of animals from which they are derived yields better microbiological standards, after 24 hours' retention, than carcasses which have been cooled slowly at ambient temperature in dry, well-ventilated premises.[HL3234]

Lord Donoughue: The rate of bacterial growth on carcasses is temperature dependant. As ambient temperature varies a great deal, studies which allowed uncontrolled variations in the temperature to which carcasses were exposed would be of very limited scientific value. The Government have not commissioned, and do not intend to commission, any such studies.

In any event, the specific requirements relating to the cooling of carcasses are laid down in the Fresh Meat Directive (64/433/EEC, as amended). Subject to limited exceptions, fresh meat must be chilled immediately after the post mortem inspection.

Lord Stanley of Alderley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have commissioned, are aware of, or will commission, any detailed scientific studies which may or do identify differences in the microbiological standards of meat produced from low throughput and full throughput slaughterhouses.[HL3235]

Lord Donoughue: No.

Sheep Annual Premium Scheme

Lord Stanley of Alderley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, under paragraph 32 of the Sheep Annual Premium/Hill Livestock Compensatory Allowances 2 (1999) Explanatory Leaflet, it is necessary for farmers to inform the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food or the Welsh Office Agriculture Department of the exact date of death of every ewe dying during the retention period, should such a loss mean a reduction in the amount claimed under the Sheep Annual Premium Scheme 1999.[HL3355]

Lord Donoughue: In order for the death of an animal to be regarded as a natural circumstance loss, it is a requirement of the EU legislation governing the Sheep Annual Premium Scheme that the competent authority (MAFF or WOAD) is informed in writing within 10 working days of the producer discovering the death. In many cases the producer will not know the actual date of death and there is no legal requirement for this information to be provided. It may be that the scheme

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guidance notes could explain these points more clearly and I will arrange for the wording of the relevant section to be reviewed in time for the 2000 Scheme.

Food Standards Enforcement

Lord Blyth asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the provisions of the Food Standards Bill, if approved by Parliament unaltered, would give them sufficient powers to create under the aegis of the proposed Food Standards Agency a national food safety law enforcement authority, assuming in part or in whole the food safety law enforcement powers of local authorities, without further reference to

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    Parliament other than by way of statutory instruments; and whether they intend to create such an authority.[HL3311]

Lord Donoughue: The Food Standards Bill would enable the Food Standards Agency to be named as an enforcement authority under Section 6 of the Food Safety Act 1990, in respect of regulations and orders made under that Act. This would however be an exception to the arrangements under the 1990 Act, which generally provide for local authorities to enforce food safety law. The Government have no intention of creating a national food safety law enforcement authority under the aegis of the proposed Food Standards Agency--indeed the Bill acknowledges the continuing role of local authorities by including powers to monitor their work.

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