The provisions of hygiene Regulation (EC) 853/2004 apply to meat as a food of animal origin and, in this context, ‘meat’ means1 the edible parts, including blood, of the following animals:
Domestic ungulates - domestic bovine (including Bubalus and Bison species), porcine, ovine and caprine animals, and domestic solipeds.
Poultry - farmed birds, including birds not considered to be domestic but which are farmed as domestic animals, with the exception of ratites.
Lagomorphs - rabbits, hares and rodents.
Wild game - wild ungulates and lagomorphs, and other land mammals that are hunted for human consumption and considered to be wild game under domestic law, including mammals living in enclosed territory under conditions of freedom similar to those of wild game; and wild birds that are hunted for human consumption.
Farmed game - farmed ratites and farmed land mammals other than those referred to in paragraph a) above.
Small wild game - wild game birds and lagomorphs living freely in the wild.
Large wild game - wild land mammals living freely in the wild not falling within the definition of small wild game.
An ungulate is simply a mammal with hooves. Domestic ungulates comprise bovine (animals of the cattle group, including buffaloes and bison), porcine (pigs), ovine (sheep), caprine (goats) and domestic solipeds (single hooved mammals such as horses, donkeys and asses).
A ratite is one of a member of a group of large flightless birds, in this context, it commonly refers to the ostrich.
Finally, reference may be made to monogastric animals, those with a single chamber stomach (such as horses, pigs, rabbits and chickens) as opposed to ruminant animals (cows, goats and sheep).
2 Fresh Meat
While Regulation (EC) 853/2004 lays down specific hygiene rules for food business operators concerning unprocessed and processed meat, the official controls on fresh meat are set out in Regulation (EC) 854/2004.2 ‘Fresh meat’ means meat that has not undergone any preserving process other than chilling, freezing or quick-freezing, including meat that is vacuum-wrapped or wrapped in a controlled atmosphere.3
Audits of good hygiene practices4 must verify that food business operators consistently and properly follow procedures concerning, as a minimum, the following:
Checks on food-chain information.
The design and maintenance of premises and equipment.
Pre-operational, operational and post-operational hygiene.
Training in hygiene and in work procedures.
Controls on food entering and leaving the establishment and any accompanying documentation.
Audits of HACCP-based procedures must verify5 that food business operators consistently and properly apply such procedures and, in particular, determine whether the procedures guarantee, to the extent possible, that products of animal origin comply with microbiological criteria and requirements concerning residues, contaminants and prohibited substances.
In addition, the official veterinarian must verify compliance with the food business operators' procedures concerning collection, transport, storage, handling, processing and use or disposal of animal by-products, including specified risk material, for which the food business operator is responsible. Moreover, that the operators' procedures guarantee, to the extent possible, that meat does not contain patho-physiological abnormalities or changes, bear faecal or other contamination or contain specified risk material, except as permitted.
Generally, official controls with respect to the inspection of fresh meat are undertaken in accordance with Annex I of Regulation (EC) 854/2004, more specifically:
The official veterinarian, qualified in accordance with Regulation (EC) 854/2004 and appointed by Defra (the competent authority),6 must inspect slaughterhouses, game handling establishments and cutting plants placing fresh meat on the market in accordance with the general requirements of Section I, Chapter II of Annex I and the specific requirements of Section IV as regards food chain information, ante-mortem inspection, animal welfare, post-mortem inspection, specified risk material and other animal by-products and laboratory testing.
The health marking of carcases of domestic ungulates, farmed game mammals other than lagomorphs, and large wild game, as well as half-carcases, quarters and cuts produced by cutting half-carcases into three wholesale cuts, shall be carried out in slaughterhouses and game-handling establishments in accordance with Section I, Chapter III, of Annex I. Health marks shall be applied by, or under the responsibility of, the official veterinarian when official controls have not identified any deficiencies that would make the meat unfit for human consumption.
After carrying out the above controls, the official veterinarian shall take appropriate measures as set out in Annex I, Section II, in particular as regards the communication of inspection results and decisions concerning food chain information, live animals, animal welfare and meat.
2.1 Food Chain Information, Ante-mortem Inspection, Etc.,
The official veterinarian must7 check and analyse relevant information from the records accompanying animals sent for slaughter8 and take account of this when carrying out ante- and post-mortem inspections. Regard is also to be had to official certificates accompanying animals and any declarations made by veterinarians carrying out controls at the level of primary production.
Where food business operators take additional measures to guarantee food safety (which include independent third party certification), which are documented and the animals covered by these schemes are clearly identifiable, the official veterinarian may take these into account.
The ante-mortem inspection of all animals is to be carried out before slaughter within 24 hours of arrival at the slaughterhouse and less than 24 hours before slaughter. In addition, the official veterinarian may require inspection at any other time. The ante-mortem inspection must determine whether there is any sign that welfare has been compromised or any condition which might adversely affect human or animal, particularly zoonotic diseases and other animal diseases subject to regulation.
In the case of emergency slaughter outside the slaughterhouse and hunted wild game, the official veterinarian at the slaughterhouse or game handling establishment must examine the declaration accompanying the animal. In certain circumstances,9 ante-mortem inspection may be carried out at the holding of provenance (usually the farm from which the animal came) when slaughterhouse ante-mortem inspection need be undertaken only when and to the extent specified.
The official veterinarian verifies compliance with EU and domestic legislation on animal welfare, including provisions concerning the protection of animals at the time of slaughter and during transport.
After slaughter, carcases and accompanying offal must, without delay, be subjected to post-mortem inspection with particular attention being paid to the detection of zoonotic diseases and animal diseases for which provision is made in EU legislation. Additional examinations, such as palpation and incision of parts of the carcase and offal and laboratory tests, must take place whenever considered necessary to reach a definitive diagnosis or detect the presence of an animal disease, residues or contaminants in excess of the permitted levels, non-compliance with microbiological criteria or other factors that might require the meat to be declared unfit for human consumption or restrictions to be placed on its use, particularly in the case of animals having undergone emergency slaughter.
The official veterinarian must generally require carcases of domestic solipeds, bovine animals over six months old, and domestic swine over four weeks old to be submitted for post-mortem inspection split lengthways into half carcases down the spinal column.
In accordance with EU legislation on specified risk material and other animal by-products, the official veterinarian is to check the removal, separation and, where appropriate, marking of such products and ensure the food business operator takes all necessary measures to avoid contaminating meat with specified risk material during slaughter (including stunning) and removal of specified risk material.
The official veterinarian is to ensure that sampling takes place and samples are appropriately identified and handled and sent to the appropriate laboratory within the framework for:
The monitoring and control of zoonoses and zoonotic agents.
Specific laboratory testing for the diagnosis of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) in accordance with Regulation (EC) 999/2001.
The detection of unauthorised substances or products and the control of regulated substances, in particular within the framework of the National Residue Plans referred to in Council Directive 96/23/EC.
The detection of animal diseases for which animal health provisions are laid down in EU legislation.
The official veterinarian is also to ensure that any other necessary laboratory testing takes place.
There are specific requirements in the case of the following:
Bovine animals under six weeks old.10
Bovine animals over six weeks old.11
Domestic sheep and goats.12
Poultry and farmed lagomorphs.15
Provision is also made in relation to a range of specific hazards: Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs), Cysticercosis, Trichinosis, Glanders, Tuberculosis and Brucellosis.18
Regulation (EC) 2075/2005 makes additional provision in regard to Trichinosis in relation to domestic swine and horse meat, wild game meat and other meat that could contain Trichinella parasites must also be examined.19
2.2 Health Marking
The official veterinarian supervises health marking and the marks used20 and, in particular, ensures that:
The health mark is applied only to animals (domestic ungulates, farmed game mammals other than lagomorphs, and large wild game) which have undergone ante-mortem and post-mortem inspection when there are no grounds for declaring the meat unfit for human consumption. The health mark may be applied before the results of any examination for trichinosis (roundworm larvae) is available, if the official veterinarian is satisfied that meat from the animal concerned will be placed on the market only if the results are satisfactory.
Health-marking takes place on the external surface of the carcase, by stamping the mark in ink or hot branding, and in such a manner that, if carcases are cut into half carcases or quarters, or half carcases are cut into three pieces, each piece bears a health mark.
The health mark is an oval mark measuring at least 6.5cm wide and 4.5cm high and which bears the following information in perfectly legible characters:
An indication of the country in which the establishment is located, which may be written out in full in capitals or shown as a two-letter code in accordance with the relevant ISO standard (UNITED KINGDOM or UK).
The approval number of the slaughterhouse.
When applied in an establishment located within the EU, the mark must be oval in shape and, in the case of the UK, include the abbreviation ‘EC’.
Letters and figures must, respectively, be at least 0.8cm and 1cm high. The dimensions and characters of the mark may be reduced for health marking lamb, kids and piglets. The colours used must be authorised in accordance with EU legislation on the use of colouring substances in foodstuffs. The health mark may also include an indication of the official veterinarian who carried out the health inspection of the meat.
Meat from animals having undergone emergency slaughter outside the slaughterhouse must bear a special health mark, which cannot be confused with the health mark or the identification mark provided for under Regulation (EC) No 853/2004.21
Meat from unskinned wild game cannot bear a health mark unless, after skinning in a game handling establishment, it has undergone post-mortem inspection and been declared fit for human consumption.
2.3 Communication of Inspection Results and Decisions
The official veterinarian records and evaluates the results of inspection. Where the presence of any disease or condition that might affect public or animal health, or compromise animal welfare, is revealed the food business operator must be informed.22 If the problem identified arose during primary production, the veterinarian attending the holding of provenance (place of primary production), the responsible food business operator (provided it would not prejudice subsequent legal proceedings) and, where appropriate, the responsible competent authority are to be informed.
When the official veterinarian, while carrying out ante-mortem or post-mortem inspection or any other inspection activity, suspects the presence of an infectious agent of animal diseases regulated under EU legislation, the appropriate competent authority must be informed and both must take all necessary measures and precautions to prevent the possible spread of the infectious agent in accordance with applicable EU legislation.
A comprehensive range of decisions fall to be taken by the official veterinarian and these are set out under Regulation (EC) 854/2004.23
3 Minced Meat, Meat Preparations and Meat Products
‘Minced meat’ is boned meat which has been minced into fragments and contains less than 1% salt.24
The raw material used to prepare minced meat must comply with the requirements for fresh meat, be derived from skeletal muscle, including adherent fatty tissues and must not be derived from:
Scrap cuttings and scrap trimmings (other than whole muscle cuttings).
Mechanically separated meat (MSM).
Meat containing bone fragments or skin.
Meat of the head with the exception of the masseters, the non- muscular part of the linea alba, the region of the carpus and the tarsus, bone scrapings and the muscles of the diaphragm (unless the serosa has been removed).
‘Meat preparations’ means fresh meat, including meat that has been reduced to fragments, which has had foodstuffs, seasonings or additives added to it or which has undergone processes insufficient to modify the internal muscle fibre structure of the meat and thus to eliminate the characteristics of fresh meat.25 This includes, by way of illustration, ready prepared chicken Kiev and kebabs.
The raw material used to prepare meat preparations may comprise fresh meat and material used in the preparation of minced meat. If the meat preparation is clearly not intended to be consumed without first undergoing heat treatment it may also contain meat derived from the mincing or fragmentation of meat meeting the requirements for minced meat other than paragraph 1 above and MSM meeting specified requirements.26
There is a range of specific hygiene requirements to be followed in the production of minced meat and meat preparations.27
‘Meat products’ are processed products resulting from the processing of meat or from the further processing of such processed products, so that the cut surface shows that the product no longer has the characteristics of fresh meat.28
Meat used in meat products must meet the requirements for fresh meat29 and meat products must not contain genital organs of either female or male animals (except testicles), urinary organs (except the kidneys and the bladder), the cartilage of the larynx, the trachea and the extra-lobular bronchi, eyes and eyelids, the external auditory meatus, horn tissue and, in poultry, the head (except the comb and the ears, the wattles and caruncles), the oesophagus, the crop, the intestines and the genital organs.
The Meat Products (England) Regulations 200330 sets out reserved descriptions in the case of ‘burger’, ‘economy burger’, ‘hamburger’, ‘chopped x’, ‘corned x’, ‘luncheon meat’, ‘luncheon x’ (where ‘x’ is the name “meat” or “cured meat” or the name of a type of meat or cured meat, whether or not there is also included the name of a type of meat), ‘meat pie’, ‘meat pudding’, ‘Melton Mowbray pie’, ‘Game pie’, ‘Scottish pie’, ‘Scotch pie’, ‘pasty’, ‘pastie’, ‘bridie’, ‘sausage roll’, ‘sausage’, ‘link’ and ‘chipolata’.31
The use of a reserved description for a product which does not comply with the requirements for that product is an offence punishable on summary conviction with a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale.32
4 Meat and Poultry Weights
Under The Weights and Measures Act 1963 (Cheese, Fish, Fresh Fruits and Vegetables, Meat and Poultry) Order 198433 and in the case of food consisting of meat or poultry (including any part of any poultry) of any description, whether fresh, chilled, frozen, salted, cooked or processed, sausage-meat in any form, whether cooked or uncooked and any article which, though it also contains other food, consists substantially of meat, poultry or sausage-meat, other than dripping, lard, meat paste, poultry paste and shredded suet the following apply:
Food which is not pre-packed, shall, if sold by retail, be sold only by net weight or, subject to maximum container weights,34 in a container either by net weight or by gross weight.
If sold otherwise than by retail, be sold only by net weight or, subject to the maximum container weights, in a container either by net weight or by gross weight.
Shall be pre-packed only if the container is marked with an indication of quantity by net weight, except meat or poultry in a quantity of less than 5g.
Bath chaps, meat or poultry pies, puddings and flans and sausage rolls are exempt the above requirements, provided that in the case of more than one item of food pre-packed in a container not marked with an indication of quantity by net weight the number of items in the container is marked on the container or is clearly visible and capable of being easily counted through the container. Meat or poultry in a quantity of less than 5g is also exempt.35
Cooked poultry, single cooked sausages in natural casings less than 500g in weight and sausage-meat products other than in sausage form when offered or exposed for sale as a single item in a quantity of less than 500 g are exempt the requirements in paragraphs a) and b) above.36
The enforcement of Regulation (EC) 853/2004 and Regulation (EC) 854/2004 is carried out under the Food Hygiene (England) Regulations 2006.37 In respect of any food business operator subject to both Regulation (EC) 852/2004 and Regulation (EC) 853/2004, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) execute and enforce the regulations in so far as the operator concerned is carrying out operations in relation to:
The FSA or the food authority in whose area the food business operator is located is responsible for the enforcement of the regulations in relation to any other establishment.
Each food authority is responsible for the enforcement of the regulations in its area38 in relation to:
Bulk transport of liquid oils or fats and raw sugar by sea.
Temperature control requirements.
Direct supply by the producer of small quantities of meat from poultry or lagomorphs slaughtered on the farm.
Raw milk intended for direct human consumption other than raw cows' milk.
The FSA is responsible for the enforcement of the regulations in relation to raw cows' milk intended for direct human consumption.
6 Charges for Official Controls
A charge may be made to cover the costs occasioned by official controls39 and, in some instances, a fee at a set minimum rate must be collected.40 Fees collected for the purposes of official controls must not be higher than the costs borne41 by the responsible competent authorities in relation to:
The salaries of the staff involved in the official controls.
The costs for staff, including facilities, tools, equipment, training, travel and associated costs.
The laboratory analysis and sampling costs.
Fees may be fixed at a flat-rate on the basis of the costs borne by the competent authorities over a given period of time or, where applicable, the set minimum rates.
In setting fees the following are to be taken into consideration:
The type of business concerned and relevant risk factors.
The interests of businesses with a low throughput.
Traditional methods used for production, processing and distribution.
The needs of businesses located in regions subject to particular geographical constraints.
Charges in relation to products of animal origin are collected under The Meat (Official Controls Charges) (England) Regulations 200942 in respect to meat of domestic ungulates, meat from poultry and lagomorphs, meat of farmed game and meat of wild game and The Fishery Products (Official Controls Charges) (England) Regulations 200743 in the case of fishery products.
The Charges for Residues Surveillance Regulations 200644 makes provision for charges made by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate in carrying out surveillance for residues of veterinary medicines and certain other substances in food animals and animal products.
1 Regulation (EC) 853/2004, Annex I, points 1.1 to 1.8
2 Regulation (EC) 854/2004, Article 5 and Annex I
3 Regulation (EC) 853/2004, Annex I, point 1.10
4 Regulation (EC) 854/2004, Article 4(4)
5 Ibid., Article 4(5)
6 Ibid., Article 2(1)(f) and Annex I, Section III, Chapter IV
7 Ibid., Annex I, Section I, Chapter II
8 The relevant information is prescribed in Regulation (EC) 853/2004, Annex II, Section III, points 1 to 4
9 Regulation (EC) 854/2004, Annex I, Section III, Chapter II and Section IV
10 Ibid., Annex I, Section IV, Chapter I, Part A
11 Ibid., Annex I, Section IV, Chapter I, Part B
12 Ibid., Annex I, Section IV, Chapter II
13 Ibid., Annex I, Section IV, Chapter III
14 Ibid., Annex I, Section IV, Chapter IV
15 Ibid., Annex I, Section IV, Chapters V and VI
16 Ibid., Annex I, Section IV, Chapter VII
17 Ibid., Annex I, Section IV, Chapter VIII
18 Ibid., Annex I, Section IV, Chapter IX
21 Regulation (EC) 853/2004, Annex II, Section I
22 Regulation (EC) 854/2004, Annex I, Section II, Chapter I
23 Ibid., Annex I, Section II, Chapters II to V
24 Regulation (EC) 853/2004, Annex I, point 1.13
25 Ibid., Annex I, point 1.15
26 Ibid., Annex III, Section V, Chapter III, point 3(d)
27 Ibid., Annex III, Section V, Chapter III
28 Ibid., Annex I, point 7.1
29 Ibid., Annex III, Section VI, point 2
30 SI 2003/2075
31 Ibid., Schedule 2
32 Ibid., r4
33 SI 1984/1315
34 Ibid., art 4(2)
35 Ibid., art 4(7)
36 Ibid., art 4(8)
38 Ibid., r5(4) and Schedules 3 to 6
39 Regulation (EC) 854, Article 27(1)
40 Regulation (EC) 882/2004, Annex IV, Sections A and B and Annex V, Sections A and B
41 Ibid., Annex VI
42 SI 2009/1574
43 SI 2007/3392
44 SI 2006/2285 as amended by The Charges for Residues Surveillance (Amendment) Regulations 2011 SI 2011/2945