HallMark Meat Hygiene restates commitment to high standards after separating from FSS
Following the protracted discussions and negotiations, HallMark Meat Hygiene will be released from its contract with Food Standards Scotland (FSS) for the delivery of meat industry official controls in Scotland. This will take effect from 16th September following the required three months’ notice.
HallMark has however restated its commitment to continue ensuring implementation of the highest possible welfare and hygiene standards during the transitional notice period, and that consumers’ interests are protected.
HallMark provides official veterinarians, meat hygiene inspectors and other technical staff to the regulatory compliance sector, and its other clients include Defra, APHA, the Food Standards Agency, DAERA, AHDB, and several private organisations across the UK.
“We’re naturally disappointed to part company with a valued customer such as FSS,” said David Peace, Chairman of HallMark Meat Hygiene. “By mutual agreement last year, we submitted a business case setting out what we believe is necessary to stabilise and maintain service delivery into the future. Ultimately, FSS decided not to accept that business case, and we consequently requested to be released from our contract with them.”
Discussions between HallMark and FSS have been ongoing since mid-2018 and during negotiations HallMark has continued to work robustly to address the increasing challenges in recruiting and retaining appropriate veterinary staff, in the wake of eroding salary values and the weakening pound post-Brexit.
“The position we presented to FSS set out HallMark’s case for a substantial increase in funding to apply entirely to frontline veterinary salaries,” said Mr Peace. “Starting salaries for veterinary staff working with HallMark in this sector had altered very little during the past twenty years. As a responsible employer and trading partner, and with inflation and a weaker pound severely testing real pay levels, HallMark felt it necessary to address those issues robustly and directly to ensure staff are properly compensated and, as a result, that services are stabilised for the benefit of the Scottish meat industry.”
Although FFS’ decision is disappointing, HallMark will nevertheless continue to operate a strong business in the provision of veterinary and technical services to government departments across the UK. In addition to these core activities, in 2018 HallMark’s parent company acquired MLCLS (Meat and Livestock Commercial Services Limited), the leading independent carcase classification business, originally owned by AHDB. HallMark is also an equal partner in its joint venture company, Probita Solutions Limited, which recruits and deploys vets in support of veterinary practices involved in TB testing activities.
Further, HallMark has confirmed it will continue to bid for major meat sector tenders in the future, driving its strategy of delivering the highest quality in official controls delivery, for existing and new customers.
“This news should absolutely not be interpreted as a HallMark withdrawal from meat industry official controls,” added Mr Peace. “We will continue to offer the same diligence and dedication to welfare and hygiene standards, wherever opportunities arise, and it will be our mission to offer to government the most efficient and professional compliance services possible, optimising the cost of compliance delivery.”