Speaking in Edinburgh, Ogle said comparison of meat inspection costs with other European countries showed Scotland in a very favourable light, adding: “We have not found any country cheaper than us.”
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He admitted that might not be a particularly good message for meat processors but they also had to consider that FSS prices had been frozen for the past two years and they also received an annual subsidy of £1.3 million of taxpayers’ money to keep costs down.
FSS expects to gather in some £5.9m in the forthcoming year based on the new charges for the inspection work and while this might seem a fairly chunky figure, Ogle said it would be dwarfed by other on-costs in the industry such as water bills.
He also stressed the FSS had worked hard to keep its own costs down since it was set up as an autonomous body from the UK organisation two-and-a-half years ago but it had now reached a point where it was not able to absorb all its additional expenditure.
While there was criticism of the new charges, he believed the inspection service played an important dual role. Not only did it help protect consumers that the meat coming through the plants met certain standards, it also helped protect the reputation of the processors in adhering to these standards.
Not that everyone wanted to adhere to the standards as Ogle reported that the Scottish Food Crime Hotline, which was set up last August to deal with issues such as food substitution, mislabelling and the illegal slaughter of animals was now dealing with a number of potential cases.
Ogle did not want to comment on the nature of these, other than stating that “investigations were taking place”.
The FSS is also responsible for animal welfare in abattoirs and Ogle revealed that it currently has 62 vets working in slaughterhouses who are responsible for reporting any breach of welfare conditions.
Currently four cases alleging animal cruelty are under investigation, with one of those already at the prosecution stage.