Concerned leaders from farming and countryside organisations have condemned the Food Standards Agency's (FSA) plans to force the meat sector to pay all the costs of official inspections in meat plants, in a letter published today (23 May) by The Times.
Eight signatories from organisations including the CLA, NFU and National Federation of Meat and Food Traders say that passing the cost of inspections onto the meat sector will cost the industry up to £25million. The letter says this will lead to the competitiveness, sustainability and viability of British livestock farming being put at risk.
The organisations believe that charging the full cost of inspections should be revisited once they are "risk-based and affordable and that currently they are neither and would lead to the closure of large and small abattoirs".
The letter states: "The FSA proposal is ill-considered and will cause irreparable damage to the meat and livestock industry and consequently to the food economy, employment, consumer choice, future food security, landscape and the environment."
The letter demands that full cost recovery is not imposed "until the FSA's own meat inspection system is radically overhauled so it is effective, efficient and affordable across the whole abattoir sector".
The letter explains that smaller, local abattoirs are "valuable for animal welfare, reducing journey times and stress for the animals". These abattoirs it says, are "vital to the local food economy" and contribute towards "a well-managed landscape, including wildlife reserves where grazing is necessary for maintaining biodiversity".
All the farming and countryside organisations involved say they welcome the proposals in the Farming Regulation Task Force's report into better regulation for farming and food businesses to end the FSA monopoly of inspection.