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FSA consultation is a ‘vengeful and spiteful act’

The Food Standards Agency’s consultation on proposals to ‘recover’ £32m in charges for meat hygiene and animal welfare is a ‘vengeful and spiteful act’ designed to punish the meat industry for successfully preventing a previous attempt to increase meat inspection charges. 

This is the view expressed by Ian Anderson, Executive Manager of the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW). He also said that the Association would ‘resist this latest move by FSA with every resource available’. 

“In 2009, we ran a successful campaign against FSA’s previous attempt to impose swingeing and unjustified increases in inspection charges,” said Mr Anderson. “At this time, however, the FSA Chief Executive said that the industry would ‘pay for its action’. We see this latest consultation as FSA’s revenge, dressed up in sheep’s clothing maybe, but revenge nevertheless. 

“It is also totally irresponsible of a government agency to bring forward such proposals at a time like this. If implemented as they stand, they would seriously damage many currently successful businesses. In some cases their impact could even prove fatal. Our industry generates sales worth many billions, both at home and abroad, contributing hugely to the UK economy and providing widescale employment in rural areas across the UK. This is, however, an industry run on extremely tight margins, far tighter than FSA have ever managed to apply to their operation. We do not appreciate, therefore, such an ill-timed attack on the viability of the meat chain at a point when the entire industry is working hard to protect sales, margins and jobs.” 

The Executive Manager also said that he believed there were many questions to be answered by FSA before the organisation could be taken seriously and its proposals addressed as they required. This included a number of ongoing developments on meat inspection which could alter the way the process works and the cost structure involved. 

“We would prefer to ‘see the colour’ of FSA’S money on these changes,” he said, “before discussing who should pay for what. It’s also important to remember that what is being talked about in this consultation is only part of the potential added cost for the industry with TSE charges also set to be transferred by the government, adding maybe another £8m burden to the meat chain.” 

Mr Anderson also took issue with FSA’s lack of openness on its own expenditure. 

“FSA claims to be an open organisation but the evidence suggests otherwise,” he said. “SAMW has asked FSA for nearly three years for a breakdown of its overhead costs. While a response has been promised on many occasions, including by the chief executive, nothing worthwhile has ever been provided. We can only assume, given their excessive size, that they’re too embarrassed to tell us the truth. The only conclusion we can draw is that FSA’s commitment to grossly expensive public sector pensions, a staff absentee level which is well in excess of the national average level, plus over-generous employment benefits, terms and conditions, forces them to remain silent. 

“It’s against this background therefore that SAMW takes the view that this new consultation is a work of fiction, is devoid of realism and is extremely naive. It’s also totally out of step with the needs of the meat industry and the consumers for whom the meat inspection process is designed. 

“Frankly, our response today is that this is a tawdry consultation which confirms that the FSA chief executive and board are not longer ‘fit for purpose’. They display little knowledge, understanding or feel for the industry, contenting themselves instead with either a myopic view of the meat business or, more likely, downright prejudice against the industry. 

“SAMW cannot see any future for FSA in Scotland and will oppose the proposals in this consultation with all the resources at our disposal.”

Full details of the consultation are available on the FSA website. Click here to access.