FSA issues advice to public institutions and caterers on meat products

FSA issues advice to public institutions and caterers on meat products

The Food Standards Agency is issuing interim advice to public institutions, such as schools and hospitals, caterers, and consumers purchasing from caterers, in light of the developing horse meat issue. In the meantime it says it is continuing to monitor the situation and will issue further advice as necessary.

Interim advice to public institutions

  • Public institutions (schools, prisons, hospitals, armed forces) are within the scope of the UK-wide authenticity sampling programme being organised by the Food Standards Agency. Therefore, suppliers (such as caterers) of meat products to schools and hospitals are included within that surveillance programme.
  • In addition, suppliers – including caterers – to public institutions are part of the extensive testing regime the Food Standards Agency has established with the food industry, including food service businesses.
  • This approach means there is now an established industry testing plan, with the FSA undertaking additional verification and validation of authenticity while ensuring that industry takes responsibility for providing assurance to consumers, with the FSA providing appropriate oversight.
  • It is reminding public bodies (schools, prisons, hospitals, armed forces) of their responsibility for their own food contracts. It expects them to have rigorous procurement procedures in place, with reputable suppliers.
  • It is keeping the appropriate Government departments in close touch with developments, making sure that they are aware of the above and that if any public authorities have any concerns they should seek assurances on authenticity from their suppliers. It remains the case that the issues identified so far suggest gross negligence and possibility criminality, but no food safety risks.
  • If public institutions are not satisfied with assurance from suppliers, then they should take appropriate action depending on the circumstances. Where evidence of authenticity is not produced, that action may include requiring the supplier to conduct tests, and reject or temporarily withhold stock, while waiting for results.

Advice to caterers

  • The FSA expects caterers and suppliers to public institutions to have appropriate controls in place, including testing and sampling regimes, to ensure the authenticity of their products.
  • If caterers have any doubts about the provenance of their product, they should seek assurance from their suppliers. Any recalled products should not be used or sold.
  • Caterers are being included in the surveillance programme agreed between Ministers and industry on 9th February.

Advice to consumers purchasing food from catering outlets

  • Caterers are responsible for ensuring the food they sell to consumers is safe.
  • Consumers are entitled to ask where the food has been supplied from and can then make judgements based on that information.
  • The evidence to date does not suggest there is a food safety risk. If further information indicates any health risk then the FSA will provide consumers with advice.

In the meantime, following a meeting two days ago with DEFRA and representatives from the food industry it was agreed that the industry deliver meaningful results from its testing programme by this Friday – 15th February.

It has also been agreed that initial tests will focus on the areas of most concern, but that all products will be tested as part of the programme and all results reported.

DEFRA and the FSA have demanded more authenticity tests on all beef products, such as beefburgers, meatballs and lasagne, and for industry to provide the results to the FSA.

There was also a commitment for the FSA and the food industry to work together to identify the best points in the supply chain to test as part of the ongoing programme and to publish regular reports of test results. The FSA will meet again with industry representatives on Monday to agree this and other technical points.

The FSA remains the lead investigating authority and there is currently no police investigation. However, the FSA and police are working closely and the police will be involved if the evidence suggests a level of criminality within the UK. The most recent information regarding Aldi and Findus does suggest gross negligence or possibly criminality, and the Agency is working closely with the French authorities as part of the investigation. Europol is also aware of its investigations.

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