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Lady Kinloss asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Donoughue: The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has been responsible for these matters since April 1995 on the creation of the Meat Hygiene Service. Prosecutions are initiated by the Ministry's Legal Department and, except in any case of exceptional public interest, it is they who will take the

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decisions on prosecution. The Minister has not overruled a decision to prosecute in this area of regulation during this period. The Ministry's lawyers themselves have on a significant number of occasions, the exact number of which is not readily retrievable, having considered the reports of the investigation officers decided not to prosecute either because of insufficient evidence or because it would not be in the public interest.

Lord Swinfen asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the separation of the audit function of the proposed Food Standards Agency in relation to the Meat Hygiene Service from the day-to-day operation of the Service, is sufficient guarantee of its independence and impartiality when the staff carrying out the audit will be employed by the Food Standards Agency, of which the Meat Hygiene Service will be a part.[HL3306]

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.

Viscount Addison asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What criteria are used by Meat Hygiene Service staff to assess whether soiling in slaughterhouse lairages after retention of animals overnight should be considered unacceptable.[HL2984]

Lord Donoughue: The Fresh Meat (Hygiene and Inspection) Regulations 1995 (as amended) require slaughterhouse owners to keep lairages clean.

Meat Hygiene Service (MHS) staff carry out ante-mortem inspection of all animals prior to slaughter. Only clean animals that meet the criteria specified in the MHS's Clean Livestock Policy are allowed to proceed to slaughter for human consumption.

Lord Glentoran asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to arrange for the independent auditing of the Meat Hygiene Service, by the Food Standards Agency, when it is absorbed into the Food Standards Agency.[HL3123]

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

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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:

    Why the Veterinary Medicines Directorate charges the meat industry 62 per cent. more than the actual costs incurred by it for residue testing.[HL3330]

Lord Donoughue: Directive 96/43/EC, on the financing of veterinary inspections and controls on live animals and certain animal products, obliges member states to recover from the industry affected, all the costs incurred in carrying out the residues surveillance work. However, the directive also specifies minimum charge rates and member states are not permitted to fix a rate below the relevant minimum charge.

In the case of poultry the charge is set at the minimum allowed by Directive 96/43/EC. However, the income raised by setting the charge at the EU minimum exceeds the cost of the surveillance programme in this sector, currently by some 35 per cent., following the appreciation of sterling, which has the effect of reducing the minimum charge expressed in national currency.

The Veterinary Medicines Directorate is aware of the industry's concerns over the charges and has discussed with the poultry industry the possibility of securing a reduction in the minimum charge. This issue is being taken forward with Commission officials.

Viscount Long asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What criteria are used by the Meat Hygiene Service to determine the fitness of Meat Hygiene Inspectors; and how many hours' experience of carrying out the post-mortem inspection of animals in slaughterhouses a senior Meat Hygiene Inspector would be expected to have.[HL3035]

Lord Donoughue: Senior Meat Hygiene Inspectors (SMHIs) and Meat Hygiene Inspectors (MHIs) are required under Directive 64/433/EEC, as amended, to undertake a minimum of 200 hours' practical training under the supervision of an Official Veterinary Surgeon (OVS). The major part of this training will be in the post-mortem inspection of animals.

Once qualified, the day-to-day performance of SMHIs and MHIs and their overall fitness for work is monitored by an OVS.

Lord Addington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many hours of practical tuition and practical experience in slaughterhouses under supervision Meat Hygiene Inspectors are required to have in the post-mortem inspection of animals.[HL3030]

Lord Donoughue: Senior Meat Hygiene Inspectors (SMHIs) and Meat Hygiene Inspectors (MHIs) are required under Directive 64/433/EEC, as amended, to undertake a minimum of 200 hours' practical training under the supervision of an Official Veterinary Surgeon

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(OVS). The major part of this training will be in the post-mortem inspection of animals.

Once qualified, the day-to-day performance of SMHIs and MHIs and their overall fitness for work is monitored by an OVS.

Hormonal Growth Promoters: Use in Cattle

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether there are any studies which show that weight-enhancing hormones in beef and milk enhancing hormones in cows which might increase weight (leading to obesity) or the over-production of milk cannot be passed to humans.[HL3383]

Lord Donoughue: We are not aware of any studies either past or planned for the future which are looking at this aspect. There is no evidence to support a link between meat or milk from animals treated with hormones and overweight.

The European Commission has agreed on research projects which are looking at specific human health aspects connected with hormonal growth promoters as part of a risk assessment. They deal with mutagenicity, genotoxicity, fertility and cancers, particularly prostate and breast cancers. Although some are looking more generally at "potential risks to human health", the Commission has confirmed that these do not include obesity.

Varroa Mite Infestations

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many apiaries are now infested with the varroa mite; what help and advice they have given beekeepers to reduce varroa infestation to harmless levels; and what progress there has been toward making the techniques of varroa monitoring and control part of routine bee husbandry in the United Kingdom.[HL3353]

Lord Donoughue: Information available as at 15 April 1999 showed there were 4,627 recorded varroa infested apiaries in England and Wales, and 16 in Scotland. Northern Ireland currently remains free from varroa.

A training programme to assist beekeepers to deal with statutory diseases and improve husbandry, including varroa diagnosis and control, is conducted by the Central Science Laboratory's (CSL) National Bee Unit (NBU) in England and Wales. CSL inspectors also provide advice to beekeepers, during statutory apiary inspection programmes, on routine control for varroosis. Similar arrangements apply in Scotland provided by the Scottish Agricultural Science Agency (SASA) and in Northern Ireland provided by the Department of Agriculture for Northern Ireland.

In conjunction with these programmes, two advisory leaflets have been produced; "Varroosis--a parasitic infestation of honey bees" and "Varroa jacobsoni: monitoring & forecasting mite populations within honey

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bee colonies in Britain". The latter leaflet was the culmination of a 5-year MAFF funded research programme which also produced a Varroa Calculator to help beekeepers assess mite population levels, damage thresholds and therefore appropriate times to treat colonies. The NBU is also working closely with national beekeeping associations through the bee health panel.

MAFF, on behalf of UK Agriculture Departments, is continuing to fund research into combating varroa, examining the possibilities of biological control of the varroa mite and the interaction between bee viruses and the varroa mite.

With effect from 1 July 1999, questions relating to bee health matters in Scotland and Wales became the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly respectively.


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