We understand from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) that the Meat Hygiene Service (MHS) currently charges industry for a proportion of the costs it incurs in carrying out meat hygiene and animal welfare official controls at approved meat premises. Businesses are charged the lower of the hourly MHS staff costs of delivering the official controls or a charge calculated from specified rates per animal or tonne of meat that is processed.
The FSA Board decided last July that the MHS should seek to progressively recover an increasing proportion of the cost of the meat hygiene and animal welfare controls that it provides and should seek to introduce charges for specified risk material official controls. At the same time, the MHS was required to improve efficiency.
The MHS is making significant changes to its operation that will reduce total costs in real terms from £91.3 million in 2006-07 to £75.0 million in 2011-12. In transforming, the MHS will continue to provide assurance that the meat industry produces safe meat for consumers.
The MHS is working with the FSA and with industry stakeholders to develop a charging system that will encourage the efficient use of MHS staff.
(2) what plans he has to reform the operation of the Meat Hygiene Service; and if he will make a statement;
(3) if he will make it his policy to replace the Meat Hygiene Service with private commercial inspection organisations.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has reviewed the delivery of official controls currently undertaken by the Meat Hygiene Service (MHS) in approved meat premises and a range of possible alternatives. This led the FSA board to set the MHS challenging targets to reduce the total and net costs of its operations over the next three financial years; to improve its productivity; to make full and cost effective use of its independent contractors; and to develop new charging arrangements. The board also decided that work should continue on preparations to pilot an alternative delivery model for its further consideration later this year.
We understand from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) that the responses to the consultation are being considered and that a summary of them will be submitted to Ministers in the normal way when the regulations to which they relate are submitted for approval. We understand that the responses summary, with joint FSA/Meat Hygiene Service comments, will be published on the FSA’s website.
The operating costs (including inflation) of the Meat Hygiene Service (MHS) for the last 10 years are:
£ million 1997-98 55.0 1998-99 63.1 1999-2000 66.9 2000-01 64.6 2001-02 77.7 2002-03 81.2 2003-04 82.1 2004-05 83.0 2005-06 88.2 2006-07 91.3
During this period MHS activity has increased and includes: the introduction of specified risk material controls; an increase in the attendance level of official veterinarians as required by European Union legislation; additional activity required during the 2001 foot and mouth outbreak; and additional work involved in the introduction of the system to allow over-30-month beef to enter the human food chain.
In real terms, MHS costs have remained relatively flat since 2001 and are forecast to fall in 2007-08.
The MHS transformation plans will see a reduction in total costs in real terms from £91.3 million in 2006-07 to £75.0 million in 2011-12, carrying out its role efficiently.