The Federation of Wholesale Distributors is fighting for the exclusion of cash and carries from a new EU ruling on fresh meat inspections.

The proposals are part of a raft of hygiene regulations due to come into effect in 2005.

Under the new regime, cash and carry fresh meat counters would be supervised under the Meat Hygiene Service by vets rather than local authority environmental health officers.

The FWD says this would generate extra red tape and add costs to cash and carry operations. These would then be passed on to their customers, usually small independent businesses.

FWD director general Alan Toft said the FWD had told the Food Standards Agency it believed that enforcement should be proportionate to risk.

He said: “We have met the Food Standards Agency on this issue, pointing out that under current enforcement the cash and carry industry has performed to the highest standards and there is no need to change from local authority supervision.”

High volume catering butchers with large cutting plants should be inspected by the Meat Hygiene Service, but cash and carries by local authorities.

The FWD was waiting to hear back from the Food Standards Agency on the EU’s ESA 15/52 regulation, said Toft.