Food chain information for cattle/calves, sheep and goats in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

From 1 January 2010 EU food hygiene legislation required slaughterhouse operators to ‘request, receive, check and act upon’ food chain information (FCI) for all cattle, sheep and goats sent for slaughter for human consumption. The Agency has produced guidance and model forms to help food businesses.

Background

Food chain information (FCI) contributes to slaughterhouse operators’ HACCP-based food safety management systems by providing information about animals procured for slaughter. Many food business operators will already require much of this information from their livestock suppliers as part of their commercial relations with them, and may have little more to do to comply.

FCI is used by the FSA in plants to aid decisions about meat and may be used to determine inspection procedures for animals and groups of animals.

Contents of FCI

The FSA is required to inform food business operators of the ‘minimum elements’ of FCI that must be provided, and has consulted with a range of stakeholders to determine these minimum elements, which are included in form of model documents. The minimum elements have been developed with the aim of ensuring that FCI is restricted to information that can be used directly by the operator or FSA staff at the slaughterhouse.

The minimum elements should be taken as a minimum requirement for the information slaughterhouse operators must receive–ultimately it is for operators to request the information they require from suppliers for their own food safety management purposes.

Additional information will be required for animals when there is relevant information to report. This information should be provided in the annex to the relevant model document.

Format of FCI

Legislation does not stipulate how slaughterhouse operators should receive FCI. Operators should select a format that best suits their business. For example, the model documents may be used as they are or customised for their own use by slaughterhouse operators, or the minimum elements may be incorporated into companies’ own documentation (e.g. supplier declarations or passport envelopes). Additionally, methods to exchange information by electronic means may be used.

In the case of sheep and goats, provision has been made in England and Wales for FCI declarations and additional information to be merged on the movement document (AML 1 form) that Defra and Welsh Assembly Government produce. Use of the new AML1 forms is one method to obtain FCI for sheep and goats, but other methods may be used that best suit slaughterhouse operators’ business needs.

It is the responsibility of slaughterhouse operators to inform their suppliers about the exact FCI they require and of the form in which they wish to receive it.

Time of receipt of FCI

FCI may be provided before the animals arrive or may accompany them to the slaughterhouse. Ideally FCI should be received before animals arrive at the slaughterhouse, but in many cases this will be impractical, particularly for cattle/calves and sheep procured through livestock markets. In the case of any information that may disrupt the normal operation of the slaughterhouse, suppliers must be advised to provide FCI in good time before the animals arrive.

If animals arrive at the slaughterhouse without FCI, the operator must immediately notify the OV. Slaughter may not take place until the official veterinarian (OV) permits. The carcasses of animals slaughtered without FCI will not be approved for human consumption until the FCI for the animals is received. Any animals arriving without FCI will, at least, cause disruption to the normal operation of the slaughterhouse – it is in operators’ interests to ensure that they comply with the FCI requirements from 1 January 2010 and that livestock suppliers are aware that FCI must be provided before animals arrive or must accompany them.

Actions on receipt of FCI

Legislation requires slaughterhouse operators to ‘check and act upon’ food chain information. Operators should use FCI to inform their HACCP-based food safety management systems and to make decisions about accepting animals and any special processing arrangements e.g. slaughter at the end of a run, additional dressing requirements, reduced line speed.

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