Also published today is the FSA’s update to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee’s inquiry into standards in poultry processing and the findings of the FSA’s investigation into 2 Sisters Food Group.
Jason Feeney chief executive of the Food Standards Agency said: “We are concerned about recent instances of companies breaching hygiene rules.
“People rightly expect food businesses to keep to the rules – rules designed to keep consumers safe and to sustain public trust in food – and food businesses have a duty to follow the regulations.
“Our review will be far-reaching and thorough and we will announce our initial findings in June.
“We are pleased that the meat industry representatives who we met with have pledged their full and effective engagement with the review.”
The review aims to increase public and stakeholder confidence in the meat industry and its regulation, and improve the ability to identify non-compliance and take prompt action when a breach is identified.
The scope of the review will cover:
- 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 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 response to the 2 Sisters inquiry, the FSA will work with the industry on a voluntary protocol for CCTV in meat processing plants and will consult on legislation to implement them if necessary.
FSA will also be running pilots to improve data and intelligence sharing across the industry. It is pursuing increased investigatory powers for the National Food Crime Unit.
2 Sisters’ inquiry
The investigation into 2 Sisters Food Group has been extensive and thorough and looked across their poultry sites.
500 hours of CCTV from the site were examined along with audit information from major retailers.
The company voluntarily ceased production at one site whilst changes were made and staff re-trained. The FSA have had a permanent presence at their cutting plants for the last four months.
Areas for improvement
Feeney said: “Our investigation found some areas for improvement but the issues were resolved promptly by the company, which co-operated fully, and at no point did we find it necessary to take formal enforcement action.
“The business has made a wide range of improvements across all its sites to improve processes.
“It is already publishing the outcomes of all its audits and is in the process of installing high-quality CCTV across its estate that we will have full access to. These are measures we would like the whole industry to adopt.”
Plans to work with the industry to implement CCTV are being led by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and do not apply to Scotland.