(FS245012) EU legislation requires that an Official Veterinarian (OV) carries out ante-mortem inspection of all red meat animals before slaughter, unless a veterinary ante-mortem inspection has been carried out on the farm. In September 2008, a report was presented on optimising FSA Operations Group resources in meat slaughterhouses. From this, research has been proposed to assess any potential changes in risk to public health, animal health and welfare that could result from ante-mortem inspections being carried out by Official Auxiliaries (OAs) rather than by OVs for young and prime red meat animals and for poultry. This project will analyse the nature of conditions detected at ante-mortem inspection and the frequency of detection. Competencies needed to detect these conditions will be examined and the risks of modifying the current requirements, assessed.
Because of the sensitivity of possible changes in the ante-mortem inspection regime as a result of this research, all potential stakeholders will be identified, consulted and included during this study. A list of these will be drawn up to include government organisations, professional organisations, industry representatives and consumer groups. An extensive literature review will be carried out to identify published work on ante-mortem inspection. Outputs from other projects currently being carried out for the FSA will help produce an initial assessment of the conditions that an OV would detect during ante-mortem inspections. Stakeholder meetings will be held to discuss key issues raised. Results from these exercises will be analysed using a Structured What If Technique (SWIFT) to produce a risk summary that will give an overview of the potential risks when using OAs for ante-mortem inspections.
For prime red meat
Ante-mortem inspection should not be considered on its own but as part of the overall inspection process including post-mortem inspection. With the small number of animals rejected as not fit for human consumption (especially for prime red meat) the change in risk to human health with an appropriately qualified non-veterinarian carrying out ante-mortem inspection would not be significant.
Ante-mortem inspection was considered effective in identifying most of the conditions/diseases that were classed as having a significant risk level; i.e., the conditions would be expected to be identified and appropriate action taken. In these cases ante-mortem inspection carried out by an appropriately trained Official Auxiliary (OA) was expected to be as effective. It was also thought that an experienced lairage man was likely to be effective in identifying animals that are not normal. However, if ante-mortem checks were to be undertaken by non-veterinarians, veterinarian support should be made available to those performing the task.
There were a number of conditions assessed as having a significant risk to animal welfare.
Ante-mortem inspection was considered to be effective in identifying all of these conditions, and would remain effective if the inspection was done by an Official Auxiliary.
There is a limit to what can be achieved with poultry ante-mortem inspection, and no reason that the key functions could not be carried out by an appropriately qualified non-veterinarian.
Many Food Business Operators will have their own systems in place to ensure quality and welfare of stock on arrival and for these an additional inspection will not add any benefit.
Notifiable diseases are better identified on farm, where flocks can be inspected under normal conditions, rather than at the abattoir where birds are restricted in crates and behavioural changes are difficult to assess.
Ante-mortem inspections carried out by an OA would be unlikely to result in any increase in risks to public health, animal health or animal welfare.