Newsletters Criminal Regulatory 23rd Mar 2018

Major Review of Meat Processing in the UK Launched by the FSA

Alex Tampakopoulos highlights the ambitious scope and aims of the major review by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Food Standards Scotland (FSS) into meat processing and storage which was announced this month.

The announcement follows a number of high profile scandals relating to alleged non-compliance with food hygiene regulations by major UK meat suppliers. It also follows on from media reports relating to the scale of non-compliance within the industry. In February it was reported that between 2014-2017 almost two thirds of audited meat cutting factories (540 out of 890) had at least one instance of major non-compliance with hygiene or food safety regulations and there were on average 16 major plant safety infractions every week in England, Wales and Northern Ireland[1]. An investigation into meat processing factories had been on the cards but the scale of the problem that has emerged since September of last year as well as serious criticism of the FSA for failing to take ‘definite action’ by a parliamentary committee of MPs has prompted the regulator to bring forward the launch.

The broad purpose of the review is to “assess how today’s meat industry operates across the whole supply chain, including the cause and effect of shifts in the economics of the industry, and how it might continue to change, to ensure that the future regulatory direction keeps pace with and anticipates sector changes”.

The scope of the review is extremely broad and will incorporate, inter alia:

  • All types of cutting plants (red meat, white meat and game);
  • How the current legislation works and the guidance supporting it;
  • How the ‘official controls’ are carried out which must be followed to ensure compliance with hygiene legislative requirements (this includes audits, inspections, sampling and surveillance);
  • The roles and responsibilities of food businesses, regulators and assurance bodies;
  • How incidents are managed and responded to.

In particular the review aims to:

  • Articulate how the meat industry currently operates across the whole supply chain and identify areas which pose the greatest risk to public health and food safety;
  • Increase awareness of circumstances and factors which can lead to non-compliance;
  • Document current official control delivery arrangements for the FSA, FSS and local authorities and identify opportunities for improvement;
  • Improve the ability to identify non-compliance and take prompt action to minimise the risk to public health and food safety
  • Increase public and stakeholder confidence in the meat industry and its regulation;

The scope and aims of the review are ambitious. It also will actively engage representatives of the UK meat industry who will shape the ultimate recommendations made.

The review presents a unique opportunity to modernise the meat industry, worth over £7billion annually, and further ensure that the regulator, the legislation and guidance are fit for purpose. Initial findings are expected in June 2018 with final recommendations, implementation plan and piloting proposals expected in September 2018. Watch this space for an update in the autumn.

Alexandra Tampakopoulos 

Alexandra has acted in a wide range of criminal regulatory matters relating to breaches of Health & Safety, Food Safety and Fire Safety legislation.

In the Health & Safety field, her practise covers the full range of offences from corporate to gross negligence manslaughter to prosecutions under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 arising from fatal and non-fatal accidents. She has significant experience advising and acting for clients across a wide range of industries including Construction, Retail, Manufacturing and Agriculture.



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