Recently the Economic Plan Bill, 2015 was enacted in Israel, which, inter alia, deals with regulations pertaining to veterinary supervision over meat products being marketed in Israel and introduces certain reforms in this regard. These reforms are important news for consumers in Israel, both in terms of protecting public health and considering the reform’s significant potential for reducing the cost of living.
Meat products are one of the most sensitive food categories in terms of the risks to consumers’ health and therefore, they require extremely close supervision. The reforms will ensure that a modern system of veterinary supervision will be in place based on risk management principles that could parallel the most advanced food safety regulations in the world and will lead to better protection of consumers’ health.
The reform of veterinary supervision eliminates the current duplication in supervisory functions with regard to the quality of poultry meat. The reforms transfer the supervision to a single government authority under the Ministries of Health and Agriculture. Government supervision will create equal and uniform veterinary supervision throughout the country, as opposed to the current situation, whereby each local authority creates its own standards, which bear no resemblance to the standards of another local authority.
The reform will rectify an historic discrimination, based on the archaic system of veterinary inspections at the premises of local authorities before being sent to markets, a system that had remained unchanged in relation to poultry meat. Nowhere else in the western world are veterinary inspections conducted at the premises of local authorities. This archaic procedure unnecessarily burdens the system with operating costs that are estimated at tens of millions of shekels per annum, which, in the final analysis, are passed on to Israeli consumers and increase the price of poultry in Israel.
The reform was approved against the backdrop of an appeal to the High Court of Justice that had been filed by two poultry plants that were seeking to rectify this historic discrimination. During this appeal, the government’s position supported rectification of the discrimination and advocated the necessity for switching to a modern method, which has finally, has become law.
The reform will shift poultry inspections from points en route to supervision at meat processing plants and at the retail points-of-sale and should significantly accelerate poultry meat transport time, reduce labor and fuel costs, lessen the chances of poultry quality diminishing due to the opening of refrigeration trucks at the extra inspection point and streamline the meat supply chain. At the initial stage, poultry plants that comply with a high international meat processing standards will receive an exemption from veterinary inspections at the premises of local authorities, while other poultry plants will continue to be inspected as before. Later on, veterinary inspections at the premises of local authorities will be completely eliminated, and poultry plants that fail to meet the new standards will not be allowed to market poultry in Israel at all.
This dramatic reform will lead to improved veterinary supervision of meat products, while reducing bureaucracy and the high costs that are currently being passed on to consumers. The reform will position the State of Israel’s standards of veterinary supervision on a par with the standards currently being practiced in the most developed countries in the world. As a consequence, some of the export barriers will also be removed, which is likely to increase exports by poultry processing plants.
There is a consensus among the regulators at the Ministry of Health and at the Ministry of Agriculture that the section on veterinary supervision is critical to promoting public health and the Israeli economy, and that veterinary inspections at the premises of local authorities must be eliminated without delay.