§ Mr. Robathan
To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what assessment he has made of the extent of breakdown in hygiene in the food chain and the effect of replacing the current system of meat inspection by one of veterinary inspection.
§ Mr. Soames
The state veterinary service visits all licensed domestic slaughterhouses annually to check on compliance with existing meat hygiene legislation. Any hygiene problems noted during these visits are drawn to the attention of the local authority, which is currently responsible for enforcing the legislation.
These monitoring visits demonstrate that standards of hygiene and inspection in the domestic slaughterhouses are in general lower than in export-approved abattoirs which are already operating to the EC standards and which handle about half the meat produced in this country. The Government therefore supported the single market fresh meat directive which requires all meat to be produced to common standards of hygiene and inspection. Most post-mortem inspection will continue to be done by qualified meat inspectors, working under the supervision of the Official Veterinary Surgeon. The Government consider that veterinary supervision of all slaughterhouses will lead to an improvement in the protection of human and animal health and animal welfare. In the longer term, the proposed national meat hygiene service will provide a consistent and cost-effective inspection service in this specialised sector of the food chain, to the benefit of consumers and of the meat industry.