Food Standards Scotland is required under EU food law to charge businesses for the delivery of all meat official controls work carried out by Meat Hygiene Inspectors and Official Veterinarians in slaughterhouses in Scotland. This work is essential to ensure that meat entering the food chain is safe for human consumption, and that animals are treated in accordance with strict animal welfare standards.
Food Standards Scotland has advised the meat industry of increases to the current rates for these controls in Scotland as part of a routine annual review. Every plant in Scotland benefits from the discount system and the smallest plants which the Scottish Association of Meat wholesalers (SAMW) claim are under threat receive a 80% discount on throughput below 1000 animals and the increase amounts to £0.90p per hour for a vet. The new amount is a total of £8.92 per hour on the first 1000 animals and 60% discount up to 5000 animals. We estimate the industry also incurred costs of £278,000 last year in time they commissioned and then didn’t use. These rates have also been subject to an external audit and FSS believe these levels of inefficiency do not justify additional support from taxpayers.
Food Standards Scotland’s total costs for the delivery of official controls for 2017-18 are estimated to be £5.9m which is a 0.5% increase in overall costs from last year. Hourly rates for Official Veterinarians and Meat Hygiene Inspectors have had to be increased due to fewer chargeable hours being recorded by the industry and because we have inherited the contract. Costs are now being spread over a reduced number of hours, meaning chargeout rates have increased.
EU regulations and the Scottish Public Finance Manual set out an expectation that Food Standards Scotland will achieve full cost recovery. Despite this, Food Standards Scotland has maintained a subsidy of 30% (£1.3 million) in each of the last three years which all slaughterhouses have benefited from. We have also made changes to rules giving an extra £80,000 to industry.
Ian McWatt, Director of Operations at Food Standards Scotland, said: “Food Standards Scotland’s paramount concern is ensuring the food we eat is safe. The official controls work we carry out behind-the-scenes in red meat and poultry plants is required by law to ensure that businesses are producing safe food, as well as ensuring that animal health and welfare are being protected.
“No increase is ever welcome, but we have been working with the industry both to explain the circumstances which have given rise to the change and to encourage them to make changes which could enhance efficiency and therefore reduce their costs through more effective use of Food Standards Scotland's time. It’s hoped that these changes will encourage industry to continue working with Food Standards Scotland to find ways to reduce the cost of regulation whilst ensuring the protection of consumers.”
Food Standards Scotland has extended its existing contract for the delivery for Official Controls by a further year and will undertake a procurement exercise during 2017-18 for future service provision where further efficiencies and value for money will be sought both for food businesses and for taxpayers. This will ensure the model implemented in Scotland continues to achieve the original aims and principles around equity, efficiency and improved compliance.