'No escape' from meat inspection costs - Rooker

LIVESTOCK farmers and processors have been told they will not be able to escape paying the full £25m cost of meat inspections, the industry has been told.

Jeff Rooker, chairman of the Food Standards Agency, said the cost of inspections had to be passed onto the industry as part of its commitment to reduce the cost of delivering meat controls.

Speaking at the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers annual conference in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire on Saturday (October 1), Lord Rooker said the FSA had to cut costs by £5m by the end of 2014/14.

“There’s no way of getting out of the charges,” he told delegates. “We are a regulator and we are a fully-fledged government agency, fully funded by the Treasury.

“All agencies are under instruction to ensure the cost of regulation is covered by those who are regulated.

“The treasury will insist on this money being collected one way or another. There’s no escape.”

Lord Rooker said the FSA would also look at other ways to make efficiencies on top of the inspections, which are planned to be phased in over three years starting from next April, in a bid to help cut costs.

He also said the FSA was focusing its resources to get changes on European rules on post-mortem inspections in order to make the regulation less expensive for the industry.

But he warned the costs of finding alternative systems had to be shouldered by processors and farmers.

“The European Commission is willing to look at changes to the rules, but those rules have to be made acceptable to member states, the public and retailers,” he said.

“We are limited to our resourcing - this is not us passing the buck, we have said to the industry this is what has to be done to fulfil the criteria, but you need to come forward with a plan.

“It’s a big piece of work, we think it will cost between £500,000 and £700,000 to assess what’s going on.

“But we need to know what other models will satisfy the criteria so we can take it to Europe. We are not saying there isn’t another way, but we are not funding it.”

Norman Bagley, AIMS policy director, said the industry was ‘ready to take up the challenge’ to find another model.

“Policy may change in Europe in future, but we want to deal with things now,” he added.

Readers' comments (2)

  • Does the FSA (or any other government agency) understand the difference between cutting costs and increasing taxes? Cutting costs involves reducing overheads and streamlining processes to make inspections more efficient. Passing costs onto the industry being regulated is the same as imposing a tax, that in a truly free market would be paid by the end consumer, but in fact will be borne by the weakest point in the supply chain - guess who?

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  • Yes there is an escape - it's called illegal slaughter. Wouldn't that be great for UK "Food Standards" and public health protection - the creation, directly attributable to the FSA, of a black market in unsafe meat, coupled with the closure of local slaughterhouses and a massive increase in distances travelled by animals. Just what the public wants.

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