The UK will begin charging meat processors fees for inspections and assessing plants based on the potential risk manufactured products pose to public health.
The move is in line with an EU policy to begin charging industry for food safety regulatory services, a policy which member states are beginning to implement.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) said this week it supported the seven key recommendations made in a review of how it regulates the meat industry.
A a meeting the FSA board endorsed the principle that meat hygiene regulation should be aligned more closely with the regulation of the rest of the food chain.The board also adopted a a more risk and evidence-based approach to regulation, inspection and enforcement.
The changes would require the FSA to work more closely with the European Commission and other member states, to gather evidence as a basis for future changes in the EU approach to meat hygiene regulation.
The FSA's Meat Hygiene Service (MHS), which oversees the sector, will be reorganised to reflect the policy changes. The changes would include an audit and inspection regime, to ensure consumer protection is maintained.
The aim will be to give the MHS more independence from the FSA. The board said it would make a decision on the proposal in the spring of 2008.
The board also agreed to establish an advisory body to implement the agreed fee changes. They also approved a agreed that the FSA and MHS should work with the poultry sector to remove barriers to the greater use of plant inspection assistants on site.
Deirdre Hutton, the FSA chair said the FSA and MHS would work to improve their working relationships with the relevant government departments to promote meat safety, and animal health and welfare across the food chain
"Today marks a watershed in the regulation of meat hygiene," Hutton stated. "The delivery of a more proportionate risk-based approach to regulation poses a challenge to both the Meat Hygiene Service and the Food Standards Agency and will require commitment, innovation and strong leadership."
The MHS is responsible for regulating about 1,500 slaughterhouses and meat cutting
premises in Great Britain. It is also responsible for overseeing the welfare and health of about 800 million food animals and birds.
The MHS has a annual budget of £33.3m. The MHS is in the process of reorganising to reduce costs, cut waste, and ensure it has greater input into the formulation of policy and legislation.