Meat processors have criticised "inherent inefficiencies" in the Meat Hygiene Service and are pushing for significant extra cost savings in its reform.

Closing regional MHS offices could deliver more than the FSA's proposed £14m annual cost reduction, said Stuart Roberts, director of the British Meat Processors Association. "The five regional offices duplicate some of what's going on at the MHS headquarters in York," he said. "There are inherent inefficiencies in the system."

After initially saying the MHS could reform itself, the FSA has backtracked and set up a delivery vehicle called the MHS Transformation Programme Partnership Forum. Roberts said it would allow the industry to have a bigger say in the shape of the new MHS.

"If industry is expected to pay more for the MHS, I'm not prepared to let it pay for other people's inefficiencies," he added.

Roberts admitted he could face a fight with the unions over the cuts.

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