FSA say that shortage of vets is impacting meat production, Northern Ireland experiencing same problem

A Food Standards Agency warning that meat and poultry producers could face interruptions to their operations in the lead up to Christmas does not, for the time being, apply to Northern Ireland.

Wednesday, 17th November 2021, 9:34 pm
FSA’s chief operating officer, has written to producers of turkey, pork, beef, chicken, lamb, goose and duck in England and Wales

The FSA has warned producers in England and Wales that a shortage of vets, who are required to carry out regulatory checks at abattoir sites, could lead to lead to interruptions in their operations in the weeks leading up to the busy Christmas period.

An FSA spokesperson explained that there are different contractual arrangements in Northern Ireland where DAERA carry out inspections on the FSA’s behalf.

However that does not mean everything is rosy in the Province.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Earlier this year Northern Ireland’s Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Robert Huey advised the Assembly’s Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee that there was an increasingly serious shortage of vets carrying out official meat inspections in Northern Ireland.

He said in March that these duties were being carried out by just 12 vets and “that’s not going to work.”

The vet’s role is to check that animals are in a fit state to be slaughtered, how animals are handled before slaughter and whether or not they are properly stunned.

Dr Colin Sullivan, the FSA’s chief operating officer, has written to producers of turkey, pork, beef, chicken, lamb, goose and duck in England and Wales to inform them that “ongoing resource challenges” could lead to a “small number of short service interruptions within the weeks prior to Christmas”.

In a separate statement, Dr Sullivan reassured consumers that there was “no reason the current pressures will affect the food people want to buy this Christmas”.

Dr Sullivan’s letter, marked as ‘Official Sensitive’, describes the situation as “highly unusual” and blames the shortage of vets on “EU Exit, increased demand and Covid-19.”

He commented: “Overall, our assessment is that there could be a small number of short service interruptions within the weeks prior to Christmas.

“Please be assured that we will work with you to overcome resource issues and maintain service delivery as best we can, however, your flexibility and co-operation would be appreciated.”

Dr Sullivan said several issues were making it more challenging to maintain appropriate resource levels, including veterinary supply post-Brexit, increased demand and Covid-19.

In his separate statement, Dr Sullivan said: “Our meat inspection regime has been very resilient in responding to unprecedented challenges and there is no reason the current pressures will affect the food people want to buy this Christmas.

“It’s the busiest time of the year for the meat industry, and we’ve written to abattoirs to ensure we work together with the aim of preventing even the smallest disruption to our operations and their production.”

The FSA said its vet partners were currently running at 20% below their optimum level, around 40 to 50 vets, but it expected the situation to improve in the New Year.

——— ———

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our advertisers — and consequently the revenue we receive — we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.

Subscribe to newsletter.co.uk and enjoy unlimited access to the best Northern Ireland and UK news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit https://www.newsletter.co.uk/subscriptions now to sign up.

Our journalism costs money and we rely on advertising, print and digital revenues to help to support them. By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.

Ben Lowry

Editor