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Lord Donoughue: European Community Directives 78/1026/EEC and 78/1027/EEC set out the freedom of movement and rights of establishment of veterinary surgeons within the European Union. This allows for graduates of recognised veterinary schools to practise anywhere within the European Union. The directives are enacted within the United Kingdom by the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 (as amended).
Lord Donoughue: All Official Veterinary Surgeons, employed or contracted to the Meat Hygiene Service, are required to undertake the Official Veterinary Surgeon accreditation course. This includes training in the requirements of the relevant UK legislation and its enforcement. The course comprises one week of formal training (consisting of lectures, tutorials and workshops) and three weeks' practical training in licensed premises.
Lord Donoughue: All prospective Official Veterinary Surgeons (OVSs) of foreign national origin are required to demonstrate an ability to communicate effectively in English, both oral and written, before designation as OVSs by the Minister of Agriculture. The ability of prospective OVSs to understand and communicate in English is assessed during the OVS training course.
OVSs must also be appointed as Local Veterinary Inspectors of MAFF. The appointment involves further face to face training with the local Divisional Veterinary Manager (DVM) of the State Veterinary Service. This provides a further opportunity for the DVM to be satisfied that the applicant possesses sufficient communication skills in English to carry out their duties effectively.
Lord Donoughue: The hierarchy of enforcement action to ensure plant operators comply with legislative requirements is clearly set out in the Meat Hygiene Service's operations manual. It starts with informal verbal advice and warnings escalating through written advice, the service of formal statutory notices and ultimately to prosecution of an individual or company and/or action by the Agriculture Departments to revoke the establishment licence. The operations manual is a working document that provides instructions and guidance to MHS staff. All OVSs are required to follow the instructions included in the manual.
However, immediate severe enforcement action may be taken in more serious cases (e.g. where there is a serious risk to public health; in cases of animal welfare abuse or breaches of the Specified Risk Material controls).
Lord Donoughue: When appointed, all Official Veterinary Surgeons are individually authorised to carry out various enforcement responsibilities. These include powers of entry, inspection of animals and meat, taking samples, detention of meat, application of the health mark, seizure of unfit meat, service and withdrawal of statutory notices.
Lord Donoughue: The Meat Hygiene Service (MHS) operates a hierarchy of enforcement action starting with informal verbal advice and warnings escalating through written advice, the service of formal statutory notices and ultimately to prosecution of an individual or company and/or action by the Agriculture Departments
OVSs must consult with their Principal Official Veterinary Surgeon in certain circumstances, particularly before serving an emergency prohibition notice, in instances where enforcement action has failed to bring about correction of deficiencies, or if they have doubts as to the correct course of action to take.
Any requests for investigation of individual plant operators/companies with a view to prosecution must be agreed by the MHS Director of Operations before being passed to MAFF Investigation Branch for investigation. MAFF lawyers will then decide whether or not to proceed with a particular case on the basis of the evidence gathered.
Lord Donoughue: The majority of Meat Hygiene Service (MHS) Official Veterinary Surgeons (OVSs) are supplied on contract, obtained by means of national competitive tendering procedures. This is fully in line with government purchasing policy and ensures that the MHS obtains value for money and that plant operators are provided with the most cost effective service.
The hourly cost of contract OVSs as charged to meat plants varies considerably depending on a number of factors, including the size and type of organisation which submits the tender bid, the level of competition for the work, the standards within the licensed premises; the number of in-plant OVS hours required; plant location and hence travel time, as well as OVS salary and other incidental costs.
Lord Donoughue: By virtue of their veterinary undergraduate course, all Official Veterinary Surgeons employed by, or contracted to, the Meat Hygiene Service are qualified to carry out meat inspection tasks. In line with EU and GB statutory requirements, all Official Veterinary Surgeons, assisted where appropriate by Meat Hygiene Inspectors, carry out meat inspection duties.
Lord Donoughue: The Government are carrying out a structured programme of research and risk assessment on the use of all organic wastes on land. This work will provide information relating to the survival of E.coli, including E.coli 0157, in farmyard manure and in farm slurry and human sewage sludge applied to land.
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