From breeding to the distribution of meat products to consumers, the Veterinary Services carry out a set of checks at each key point in the meat chain, with the aim of guaranteeing food safety.
Farm controls: identification and health
Each breeder monitors the health status of their herd daily. At the same time, veterinary action consists in the prevention and treatment of animal diseases.
At this stage, veterinary action consists of conventional health prevention and monitoring of animal diseases.
Some of them are the subject of official collective fight aiming at the eradication for diseases transmissible to humans (tuberculosis, brucellosis, BSE …) or not (scrapie of small ruminants). This control goes as far as the veterinary pharmacy, relating to the conditions of delivery and use of veterinary drugs, as well as to the verification of the non-use of prohibited molecules.
The veterinary services also issue animal health documents, which are compulsory during transport (purchases, markets, exports, etc.), and attesting to the animal’s healthy state, such as, for example, the health section affixed to the cattle passport.
At the slaughterhouse: hygiene and health inspection
Two main types of controls operate at this level.
On the one hand, a check of the establishment, its layout, its functioning, the general hygiene of the premises and the staff. This control results (or not) in the approval of the slaughterhouse and the granting of a stamp which will be affixed on all the carcasses from this establishment.
On the other hand, a systematic control of the animal before and after its slaughter:
Before slaughter, it is a question of checking once again the identity of the animal, its provenance and its good health.
At the end of the slaughtering operations, each carcass is inspected by agents of the veterinary services. If it has no abnormality, the carcass is stamped, that is to say that it is affixed with a health mark proving that it can enter the food chain.
Carcasses or carcass parts which are not recognized as safe are seized, that is to say withdrawn from consumption under the supervision of the veterinary services. Among the pieces seized are the specified risk materials, or SRM, which are eliminated to prevent the risk associated with BSE. SRM are compulsorily destroyed by incineration.
Health security, slaughterhouse
It is also at the slaughterhouse that residue control (of drugs, pesticides, prohibited substances such as anabolics) in meat is carried out. National surveillance plans make it possible to verify, by sampling the meat or urine of animals, the presence or absence of these products.
This monitoring is permanent.
Processing and distribution
At the exit of the slaughterhouse, the carcass is either oriented directly towards the cutting (then the butchery), or sent to a processing company.
The latter produces a more or less elaborate commodity (prepared, frozen, canned food, etc.), which will be made available to consumers at the end of the distribution channel concerned (supermarkets, retail sales, etc.).
All of these establishments, like slaughterhouses, are subject to approval relating to hygiene, layout, operating criteria, etc.
These are the companies which, since 1996, are responsible for the hygienic conditions prevailing in their establishment. They must define the most appropriate means to guarantee, in their specific context, the health objectives set by the regulations.
This most often involves establishing a program to control the hygienic and sanitary risks that may arise in the company. This program must be validated by the Veterinary Services before being implemented.
Finally, unannounced checks on foodstuffs also take place in shops, collective or commercial catering establishments.
Control of cold and hygiene
Throughout their storage and transport, the meats are kept at a temperature low enough to avoid any deterioration in their sanitary quality. The temperature of the cold rooms is constantly checked by professionals and control services. The temperature of transport vehicles can be checked at any time, on the road, by the gendarmerie and police services, possibly associated with departmental agents of the DGCCRF (Directorate General for Competition, Consumption and Repression) Fraud) or Veterinary Services.
Health security, butchery
At the butcher or in the traditional butchery department of supermarkets and hypermarkets, to preserve their sanitary and organoleptic (or sensory) qualities, the fresh meats are presented for sale protected from any contamination in a refrigerated display case.
Self-service, in supermarkets, cut meats packaged in UVC (Consumer Sales Unit) are presented in refrigerated shelves. The various refrigerated cabinets are equipped with thermometers to quickly detect any break in the cold chain.
At this stage, regular checks are carried out in store by the agents of the Veterinary Services and the departmental agents of the DGCCRF. They relate to the rules of conservation, in particular the temperatures of storage, exposure to sale, packaging, labeling and compliance with the Use by Date (DLC).
Non-compliant products are systematically withdrawn from sale.
Meats produced in another country can only be imported if they meet the same requirements as those imposed in France and the European Union. Foreign workshops are audited by inspectors from the European Commission. Imported meats are checked by Veterinary Services at border inspection posts.