18 May 2012

Meat companies to take over some inspection roles

1:29 pm on 18 May 2012

Meat companies will start doing some of their own meat inspection procedures this year as a result of overseas markets agreeing to the changes.

At present, inspectors employed by the State Owned Enterprise AsureQuality, overseen by government vets, are responsible for all inspection services at meat plants.

The Ministry for Primary Industries and the meat industry have been discussing allowing processing companies to become responsible for carrying out some of the non-health related quality checks on carcasses.

The proposal was trialled at AFFCO's Imlay plant at Whanganui last year.

Ministry deputy director general for standards Carol Barnao says that's now going ahead after clearance was obtained from New Zealand's major trading partners.

Ms Barnao says it will be up to the companies themselves whether they adopt the changes.

She says Government meat inspectors will continue to have oversight and manage food safety elements at plants.

The Meat Industry Association says the changes will bring the industry into line with inspection procedures in other food processing industries such as fish and poultry.

MIA chief executive Tim Ritchie is expecting about six plants to start doing some of their own quality control inspections from in August, and more in October.

AsureQuality says about 800 full time and part time inspectors work at meat plants.

It says it is too early to know what impact the changes will have on their employment.

That will depend on how many companies choose to do their own quality inspections and the number of inspectors they will employ directly for that.

But AsureQuality has advised the Government that, in the longer term, the potential impact on its income, profitability and redundancy liability could be significant.