This week, the Government announced it will open a £4million fund to support small abattoirs at the end of 2023. Here, Rebecca Ironmonger of our Regulatory Team discusses what we know so far about the fund and considers what else might be needed to support this struggling sector.
The meat industry has faced many challenges over the years, with many small family-run abattoirs faring worst as a result of increased regulation, higher costs falling public confidence. The announcement of a support fund for smaller abattoirs will therefore come as welcome news to many in the sector.
The fund, as presently described by DEFRA, will help to “improve productivity, enhance animal health and welfare, and encourage investment in new technologies”. What exactly this means has not yet been revealed, but it is likely to include grants for businesses to invest in and install new equipment which will meet the productivity and welfare goals.
DEFRA’s press release also includes mention of identifying “opportunities to remove unnecessary burdens for small abattoirs to make it easier for them to operate”. The Regulatory burdens on small abattoirs are extensive and expensive. These unnecessary burdens result from the FSA’s approach to the Regulations as opposed to from the European Regulations themselves. Whilst the Regulations provide exemptions for small businesses (for example there is no requirement for businesses to keep documents and records demonstrating their compliance with HACCP (Art 5(2)(g) EC Reg 852/2004 – such documentation should be “commensurate with the nature and size of the food business”) the FSA affords small businesses no such reprieve from full compliance.
The removal of unnecessary burdens could be quickly and easily achieved if the FSA took a sensible and pragmatic approach to the regulation of small food businesses. In addition, the FSA should adopt a risk-based approach to enforcement, something which since the introduction of the Hygiene Package in 2006 the FSA has wholly failed to implement. In our experience of the FSA, they fail to have any regard whatsoever to risk and/or food safety when taking enforcement action.
It will be interesting to see whether any legislative change will follow this announcement and whether any such change will be implemented before next year’s General Election. Certainly, the meat sector will be paying close attention to the proposals by all parties over the coming months.
If you are a small abattoir and you are facing enforcement action, please get in touch with our Regulatory Team, who will be happy to help you.