Role of MHS in animal disease outbreaks

A jointly commissioned report, assessing the roles and responsibilities of the Meat Hygiene Service (MHS) in animal disease outbreaks, has been published today by the Food Standards Agency and
Defra.

The MHS is an executive agency of the Food Standards Agency and is responsible for the protection of public health and animal health and welfare in Great Britain, through proportionate
enforcement of legislation in approved fresh meat premises (slaughterhouses and cutting plants).

The independent report, by consultants DNV, used as its reference the outbreak of bird flu at a Bernard Matthews turkey farm at Holton, Suffolk in early February 2007. The report has been
published in conjunction with a wider lessons learned review on the outbreak from Defra.

Although the disease was quickly and successfully eradicated on the Holton site, with no evidence of further spread, a review of the relationships between the various Government departments and
agencies involved was undertaken to fill any gaps in contingency planning.

The FSA welcomes the report and its observations.

Key recommendations of the DNV MHS Review are:

● In situations where enforcement responsibilities may be shared, legislative requirements and legal roles should be clarified and communicated at the
start of investigations.
● Representatives from different organisations should establish and test ways of working as a matter of routine. This will ensure that when an outbreak
occurs the channels of communication are open and requests for information can be coordinated.
● Explicit consideration of the roles of other organisations in potential scenarios would improve contingency planning and aid preparedness for future
events.
● Time should be invested in building relationships, trust and communication channels at a high level between the different organisations.

These recommendations will be used to inform and shape contingency planning for any future animal disease outbreaks. The FSA and Defra have already made steps to improve communication channels
since the bird flu outbreak and will continue to build on this work.

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