Butchers, supermarkets, delis and grocers who fail to apply for a new butchers' licence within the next three weeks will soon no longer be able to sell raw meat and ready-to-eat food on the same premises, the Food Standards Agency Scotland warned today.The new licensing scheme, introduced in the wake of the 1996 E. coli outbreak in Central Scotland, takes effect from October 2. In order to ensure licences are in place by that date, retailers must submit their applications to their local environmental health department by August 21. Any shop which handles both unwrapped raw meat and ready-to-eat food will be affected, which means the scheme affects not only butchers but some grocers, supermarkets and delicatessen. Dr George Paterson, Director of the Food Standards Agency Scotland, said:"Butchers' licensing is good news for consumers and good news for butchers. Consumers will be able to have greater confidence in the products they buy and butchers will reap the commercial rewards which greater consumer confidence brings about."That is why it is vital that those butchers who have yet to put in place the appropriate hygiene measures do so as a matter of urgency. Their licence applications will have to be in by August 21 if their local authority is to have enough time to process them."The Butchers' Licensing Regulations are there to help butchers not harm them. But with the deadline now looming they must realise that unless they act fast they will not be in compliance with the law."These Regulations apply to anyone who trades in both unwrapped raw meat and ready-to-eat products, which means some grocers, delicatessens and supermarkets will be covered. It is therefore equally important for them to implement the necessary changes too if they have not already done so."