The annual report on the audit of the Meat Hygiene Service (MHS) – assessing compliance by MHS hygiene and inspection teams on a range of operational procedures – is published today.


This is the first Audit Report to be published by the Food Standards Agency, of which the MHS is an executive agency. It relates to the year 1st April 1999 to 31st March 2000, when both the Veterinary Public Health Unit and the Meat Hygiene Service were part of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF). Audit visits were made by Veterinary Meat Hygiene Advisers to licensed premises throughout that year.


The report includes all the findings of the audit, including those where remedial and enforcement action was being – or has since been – taken. The Meat Hygiene Service’s response to the Audit Report is included with the report.


The report notes that non-compliance with procedures does not in itself mean that the failure led to contravention of legal requirements, or a specific public health or animal welfare problem. To give some indication of the significance attached to them, non-compliances have been classified in this report as critical, major, or minor.


The report states that:



  • no non-compliances were classified as critical (this is defined as “causing an immediate, serious risk to public health or animal welfare”);

  • no non-compliances at any level were reported at 42 of the 172 audit visits; and

  • the majority of non-compliances identified were classified as minor.

The MHS demonstrated high levels of compliance in visited premises regarding:



  • Specified Risk Material (SRM) controls (measures to protect consumers from the possible risks of BSE);

  • Residue sampling procedures;

  • Official Veterinary Surgeon certification duties.

There were improvements throughout the year in:



  • Hygiene Assessment System scoring;

  • MHS performance monitoring.

In some plants, says the report, improvements are still required in certain areas. In particular there is a need to improve the monitoring and enforcement of:



  • hygiene controls;

  • water testing;

  • structure of the premises; and

  • MHS staff documentation.

In some plants, says the report, improvements are still required in certain areas. In particular, there is a need to improve the monitoring and enforcement of:



  • controls on the hygiene of premises and operations;

  • structure of the premises;

  • MHS staff documentation; and

  • testing to ensure the quality of water used in premises.

A series of recommendations in the report suggest areas where the MHS should consider further action, either at headquarters, regional, or plant level; or where further training would be appropriate.


NOTES FOR EDITORS



  1. The period reported on was the final year of existence of the Joint Food Safety and Standards Group (JFSSG), which was made up of officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) and The Department of Health (DH), reporting to Agriculture and Health Ministers. This group formed the core of the Food Standards Agency, which was established on 1st April last year.
     

  2. The Meat Hygiene Service became an executive agency of the Food Standards Agency on 1st April last year. The responsibilities of the MHS cover the enforcement of domestic legislation in relation to meat hygiene, inspection and animal welfare in licensed fresh meat, poultry meat and game meat establishments and in integrated premises producing meat products, meat preparations and minced meat.
     

  3. An audit of the Meat Hygiene Service is carried out by Veterinary Meat Hygiene Advisers of the Veterinary Public Health Unit in England and of the State Veterinary Service of MAFF in Scotland and Wales. The purpose of the audit is to determine, by independent means, if MHS operations, practices and activities comply with requirements as specified in the MHS Operations Manual which includes the relevant legislation and Codes of Practice.
     

  4. One hundred and seventy two audit visits to MHS supervised plants in Great Britain were carried out between 1st April 1999 and 31st March 2000.
     

  5. Media copies of the audit can be obtained from the Food Standards Agency Press Office, Tel: 020 7972 2444.
     

  6. The public can obtain copies of the audit from the Veterinary Public Health Unit, Tel: 020-7238-5720. Details can also be found on the Agency’s website at www.foodstandards.gov.uk.