Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Lord Blyth asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Hayman: Rejection data are collected by the Meat Hygiene Service but not in a form to answer this particular Question.

Lord Blyth asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Hayman: No formal arrangements are in force. However, senior management of the Meat

11 Oct 1999 : Column WA38

Hygiene Service are always available to meet with local authority respresentatives should the need arise.

Lord Blyth asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many times in the last financial year representatives of the Meat Hygiene Service met with representatives of the local Authorities Co-ordinating Body on Trading Standards.[HL3191]

Baroness Hayman: Representatives of the Meat Hygiene Service have not met officially with representatives of the local Authorities Co-ordinating Body on Trading Standards (LACOTS) during the last financial year. However, there has been informal contact on a number of occasions during this period.

Lord Blyth asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether a slaughterhouse owner who suspects that an animal presented for slaughter at his establishment may produce meat in which veterinary medicines residues may be above the statutory limits may require a sample to be procured by an official veterinary surgeon for transmission to and testing by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate; and whether he is entitled to receive a result in sufficient time to release the carcass should residue levels be within acceptable limits.[HL3256]

Baroness Hayman: It is an offence under Regulation 9 of the Animals and Animal Products (Examination for Residues and Maximum Residue Limits) Regulations 1997 to sell, or supply for slaughter, for human consumption any animal which contains an authorised substance in any of its tissues at a concentration exceeding the relevant maximum limit. Under Regulation 30 the slaughterhouse owner is required to ensure that any animal brought into his establishment does not contain a residue at a concentration which exceeds the maximum permitted limit. It is the responsibility of the owner/presenter of the animal to ensure compliance with the regulations at their own cost.

Any slaughterhouse owner who suspects that an animal presented for slaughter at his establishment may produce meat in which veterinary medicine residues may be above the statutory limit should refuse to take the animal into his slaughterhouse. If he has already slaughtered it he should arrange for it to be tested for residues at his own expense, making arrangements to ensure it does not enter the human food chain. If the test is positive he should inform the OVS so that action can be taken to re-test the carcass and, if necessary, take the appropriate action against the presenter. The slaughterhouse operator, under Regulation 10, would be prohibited from marketing the meat from the carcass.

Lord Blyth asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the trimming of carcasses in a slaughterhouse by Meat Hygiene Service personnel to remove contamination increases the risk of penetration of bacteria into deep muscle by way of the exposed, cut surfaces.[HL3257]

11 Oct 1999 : Column WA39

Baroness Hayman: Most trimming of carcasses to remove contamination is carried out by slaughterhouse staff. Meat Hygiene Service (MHS) inspectors are permitted to carry out some trimming in defined circumstances. Trimming may theoretically increase the risk of penetration of bacteria into deep muscle by way of exposed cut surfaces: nevertheless the objective of food safety overall is best achieved by trimming to remove contamination rather than by other available methods.

Lord HolmPatrick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will cause the total output of improvement notices served by official veterinary surgeons to be subject to independent scrutiny with a view to determining how many non-statutory works have been required.[HL3084]

Baroness Hayman: As improvement notices are served under the Food Safety Act 1990, and can only be served where there is a statutory act of non-compliance, there is no need for such arrangements for scrutiny.

Lord HolmPatrick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the level of non-productive time booked by the Meat Hygiene Service working in slaughterhouses during 1997-98 and 1998-99 in terms of number of hours and as a proportion of the total hours available.[HL3200]

Baroness Hayman: The level of non-productive time booked by the Meat Hygiene Service working in slaughterhouses during 1997-98 and 1998-99, in terms of number of hours and as a proportion of the total hours available, was as follows.

(i) Hours recorded to non-productive time (time not directly charged) were approximately:

YearHours%
1997-988,0000.4
1998-995,0000.3

(ii) In addition, there is a further element of non-productive time which arises as a consequence of plant down-time or unusual working hours and is charged directly to plants.

(iii) In 1998-99 the total non-productive time for slaughterhouses amounted to approximately 54,000 hours or around 4 per cent of the total hours available.


Lord HolmPatrick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many official veterinary surgeons employed by the Meat Hygiene Service have been subjected to disciplinary procedures, either formal or informal, for failure to follow the Meat Hygiene Service operations manual (HL3201)

Baroness Hayman: The number of official veterinary surgeons (OVSs) employed by the Meat Hygiene Service (MHS) that have been subject to disciplinary

11 Oct 1999 : Column WA40

procedures, either formal or informal, for failure to follow the MHS operations manual is as follows:

Disciplinary Action:Total Number
Formal4
Informal14

The use of “caution" letters as part of the normal line management process have been included in the figure for informal disciplinary action.

While disciplinary action has been taken against a number of contract OVSs, which in some cases has led to the termination of their contracts, this information is not recorded centrally and could only be produced at disproportionate expense.


Lord HolmPatrick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Where the responsibility for carrying out statutory duties in meat inspection lies; whether meat hygiene inspectors are authorised specifically in writing to carry out these duties; and, if so, who signs the authorisations.[HL3202]

Baroness Hayman : Responsibility for carrying out statutory duties in meat inspection lies with official veterinary surgeons and meat hygiene inspectors employed by the Meat Hygiene Service (MHS). They are specifically authorised to carry out such duties in writing, their authorisations being signed by officials duly authorised by the appropriate enforcement authority to do so.

Lord HolmPatrick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether an assessment of the health and safety of Meat Hygiene Service staff working in meat cutting plants and abattoirs has been carried out; and, if so, what recommendations have been made.[HL3203]

Baroness Hayman : The Meat Hygiene Service has undertaken a programme of specific risk assessments in licensed premises. Follow-up action has been taken as appropriate in plants where risks have been identified through liaison with the operators of those plants.

Lord HolmPatrick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether asking meat hygiene inspectors employed by the Meat Hygiene Service to sign the Official Secrets Act is an appropriate use of this Act.[HL3204]

Baroness Hayman : Meat hygiene inspectors employed by the Meat Hygiene Service are not required to sign the Official Secrets Act. However, as civil servants they are bound by its terms. This is considered to be entirely appropriate.

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Donoughue on 16 June (WA 28), how many hours they estimate would be reasonable to allocate to the

11 Oct 1999 : Column WA41

    training of candidate official veterinary surgeons in the Hygiene Assessment Scheme (HAS); and how they can be satisfied that the training of official veterinary surgeons in the implementation of the HAS is adequate, since they are unable to state how many hours are devoted to the HAS in the conversion training for official veterinary surgeons.[HL3299]

Baroness Hayman : Training in the Hygiene Assessment Scheme (HAS) forms an integral part of official veterinary surgeon (OVS) training. While it is not possible to provide an exact figure for the total number of hours currently dedicated to HAS training or to provide an estimate of how many hours it is considered reasonable to allocate to it, it is believed that such training is adequate given that:


    (i) as part of the OVS course, veterinary surgeons undertake approximately three hours theoretical training specifically on HAS. In addition, a further three hours of practical training and assessment is undertaken prior to a veterinary surgeon's appointment to Meat Hygiene Service (MHS) duties;


    (ii) Once employed or contracted to the MHS, OVSs as part of a continuous professional development (CPD) programme, have to attend occasional one-day seminars updating them on HAS-related issues. The exact number of hours that an OVS will have undertaken on such training will depend on their length of service and cannot therefore be clearly specified.


    (ii) Finally, the work of an OVS on the implementation of HAS is routinely monitored and assessed by their principal OVS. Further guidance will be given where appropriate. The exact amount of time dedicated to this will be specific to a particular OVS.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page