There was confusion at some abattoirs yesterday about the new trichinella-testing regime, with at least two club members your webmaster and Keith Bennett finding their abattoirs had wrongly introduced the new testing procedure.

The FSA ‘consulted’ in march on introducing a new test for trichinella, with a planned implementation date of June. But following feedback from ‘food business operators’ – the abattoirs – it was clear that most would be unable to comply, and last week the FSA ‘announced’ that this would be put back to the end of October. Unfortunately this announcement did not extend to updating it’s website or telling the State Veterinary Service who oversee this, so several abattoirs started implementation yesterday.

At my own abattoir, I went to see the vet, who was adamant that he had received an email only two hours before reminding him that this was the start of the new system.

Following me reporting this to the National Pig association (NPA), their chief executive Zoe Davies immediately raised this with the FSA, and the ever excellent Digby Scott who overseas their website updated their site to make it clear what the position is, which links to the FSA announcement.

If your abattoir is not fully clear, please E-mail me and I’ll happily pass this to the NPA for action.

Trichinella testing has been part of EU legislation for a while. However the UK has only been testing sows and boars, arguing that the UK has not had Trichinella in known memory. In some parts of Europe it is endemic.

The Food and Environment Research Agency is seeking to get the UK declared as ‘Trichinella free’ by the EU, and has done extensive research on fox carcases as part of this work, with none having tested positively. However it appears that the EU needs firm evidence that pigs do not have this, so the FSA has now decided that 3 years of testing of all ‘outdoor’ pigs is needed to prove our case. The FSA will not be funding the cost of this, but will pay a paltry 60p per sample tested. And of course once we have started testing will this ever really end? And at the end of 3 years will the 60p per sample just end as it turns into cost recovery, which is now the standard expected of government departments?

In the meantime, we wait to see how this will work in October. Large abattoirs will of course get the lab equipment, so will be able to do on-site testing. But will the smaller ones be able to afford this, have the staff or indeed have the room? Or will they be expected to send samples away. For my abattoir the response yesterday was that they will be sending results off for the time-being, which will lead to them having to hold carcases for up to a week whilst the results are obtained. and 60p doesn’t even start to cover the cost of the courier let alone testing costs.

Of course ultimately we as the user of abattoirs will meet the cost of additional storage and of any testing above 60p, and my abattoir will struggle to have the cold-store space for the usual Monday 100 pigs it processes. At worst the result might be that they give up doing pigs. I suspect it will not lead to that, but for some micro-abattoirs (butchers with abattoirs attached) will this be yet another nail in the coffin?

So all in all, increased costs for the abattoir and us, and delays in carcass release fro the next 3 years.