FSA work in approved premises

The Food Standards Agency protects public health and animal health and welfare in Britain by providing verification, audit, and meat inspection services in approved fresh meat premises throughout England, Scotland and Wales. The FSA does this on demand, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

The EU Food Hygiene Regulations place the responsibility on the operator of an approved fresh meat premises (slaughterhouses, cutting plants and game handling establishments) to ensure that all stages of the production, processing and distribution of food under their control satisfies the relevant hygiene requirements.

The FSA helps the meat industry to achieve this by delivering official controls in all fresh meat premises. This work includes inspections of all animals, carcasses and offal to verify that the operator of the premises complies with EU Food Hygiene Regulations.

Objectives

Protecting public health

For the FSA, public health protection extends well beyond the visual examination of carcasses to ensure fitness for human consumption. It includes preventing contamination, ensuring that food businesses abide by the BSE controls and can include taking samples for testing for residues of veterinary medicines. The FSA checks animals before slaughter for any signs of disease, ensures that the slaughter and dressing process is conducted in accordance with the legislative requirements and checks the appropriate disposal of the parts of the carcass that are not intended for human consumption.

Once a carcass has been passed as fit for human consumption a member of our staff will apply the health mark under the supervision of an Official Veterinarian (OV). This is a stamp that is applied to fresh meat carcases produced in approved premises and is an internationally-recognised symbol indicating that the meat has been inspected and passed as fit for sale for human consumption. The stamp also includes the unique identification number of the slaughterhouse or game handling establishment where the meat was produced and indicates that this was located in the UK.

Protecting animal welfare

The FSA monitors on a daily basis the welfare of animals presented for slaughter to verify that food businesses meet the necessary standards of animal welfare that the EU legislation requires. Operational staff work closely with Defra and local authorities on suspected welfare problems that arise on-farm or in transit, and in reporting any suspicion of a notifiable disease. The FSA also submits to Defra monthly reports of data collected at every slaughterhouse, allowing trends in animal welfare to be assessed.

Protecting animal health

The effects of serious notifiable diseases in the animal population can be devastating and costly. FSA frontline staff play a vital role at slaughterhouses in surveillance and control of these diseases. They carry out additional checks for Defra when slaughterhouses operate under disease restrictions, including checking movements are permitted, and that lorries and trucks are clean and disinfected to mitigate the risk of further spread of disease. They also keep a watchful eye on the livestock coming through for signs of any disease, a task they fulfil even when the country is free from disease.

What the FSA does

The Agency provides verification, audit, and meat inspection services in approved fresh meat premises. These tasks include:

Ante-mortem (before death) inspection

Livestock and poultry delivered to abattoirs are all inspected by the FSA before slaughter. Ante-mortem inspection is performed by the Official Veterinarian (OV), who will check for any signs of disease, injury, fatigue, stress and mishandling.

Only clean, dry animals may progress to slaughter, ensuring that the risk of contamination of the resulting meat is reduced as far as possible.

Animal welfare at slaughter

The monitoring of the actual slaughter process itself enables FSA operational staff to ensure that welfare at slaughter is maintained to the highest standards. Checks are made on the positioning of stunning equipment, the effectiveness of the stun and the efficiency of bleeding, so that the risk of any animal suffering during the process is minimised. The FSA licenses slaughterers and enforces legislation relating to animal welfare at slaughter on behalf of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the devolved administrations in Wales and Scotland.

Post-mortem inspection

Every carcass is inspected after slaughter to ensure fitness for human consumption. This is largely the responsibility of the teams of Meat Hygiene Inspectors working under the supervision of the OV, but may be carried out by the OV in some circumstances. Each carcass is carefully inspected and accepted, or rejected, as appropriate. Carcases that are fit for human consumption are health marked.

Hygiene at slaughter and cutting

The FSA is responsible for ensuring that the slaughter and dressing process is conducted by the Food Business Operator (FBO) in accordance with the legislative requirements, and that meat is produced by the FBO in a hygienic manner. This requires attention to temperature controls, working practices, and the general upkeep (cleaning and maintenance) of the premises.

Animal by-products and specified risk material

FSA operational staff check on the appropriate disposal by the FBO of animal by-products, to ensure that they are stained, stored, and dispatched according to the relevant legislation. Animal by-products include parts of the carcass that are not intended for human consumption (such as skin or feathers) or have been rejected as unfit by FSA operational staff. By-products are categorised broadly according to the degree of risk they could present to human and animal health, and are used or disposed of accordingly. Particular attention is paid to the removal, staining and disposal of specified risk material (SRM) – those parts of cattle and sheep that are most likely to contain BSE infectivity – to ensure that the consumer is fully protected.

Enforcement action

If meat is not produced in accordance with the relevant regulations, FSA operational staff take proportionate enforcement action, which may include informal action, serving notices, or referrals for investigation or withdrawal or suspension of approval. When carrying out any enforcement activity the FSA acts in accordance with the Manual for Official Controls (MOC) enforcement policy and operational instructions, as well as the Government's Enforcement Concordat.

Sampling

The FSA is well placed to facilitate testing and surveillance on behalf of other Government departments and agencies. It conducts this work under formal Service Level Agreements. Work currently being undertaken includes collection of samples for statutory veterinary medicines residue testing and the collection of samples to test for campylobacter on behalf of the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD). The collection of samples for Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy (TSE) testing, TB, Aujeszky’s disease and EBL on behalf of Defra. The FSA also carries out Trichinella testing where this is required for certain animal species such as horses and pigs.

Animal identification

FSA operational staff in red meat abattoirs check cattle passports and ear tags to ensure that animals presented for slaughter for human consumption have been correctly identified. Pre-slaughter checks are the responsibility of the FBO. Cattle passports are stamped by FSA operational staff and sent to the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS), where details of the animal are entered onto the Cattle Tracing System (CTS).

Where the FSA operational staff work

FSA operational staff carry out their work in Great Britain’s approved slaughterhouses, cutting plants (a food business that specialises in de-boning, cutting and jointing the meat from a carcass) and game handling establishments.

A list of these plants is available via the link towards the bottom of this page.

To ensure efficient and effective food hygiene controls, FSA operational staff also audit food controls in premises producing ready-to-eat meat products and cold stores that are located on the same site as a slaughterhouse or a cutting plant.

Stakeholders

The FSA has a wide variety of people and groups with interests in how it operates, what it does, and how well it does it. These stakeholders include:

The consumer

The consumer, who expects safe meat to be produced from well cared-for, healthy animals that are slaughtered humanely in a hygienic environment.

Operational staff

FSA staff (both employed and contracted) are the most valuable resource, as they deliver official controls to help ensure the protection of public health and animal health and welfare.

Government departments

The FSA deliver official controls on behalf of other Government departments, including the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and its agencies.

Food Business Operators

Food Business Operators of slaughterhouses, meat cutting premises and game handling establishments, who receive and pay for many of the services the FSA delivers.

Wider stakeholders

Wider stakeholders monitor what the FSA does as it may affect the decisions they make or the people and businesses they represent. These include local authorities, health and rural affairs Ministers in Britain, meat and farming industry representatives and those who have an interest in animal welfare at slaughter and the protection of public health and animal welfare.

Suppliers

The FSA works closely with the suppliers of contract veterinary staff who form part of the overall workforce.