The Dutch food agency identified 5,700 possible violations in red meat and poultry slaughterhouses in the first half of 2022.

The Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) said this resulted in 401 written warnings or fines. Most issues found, in the more than 23,600 checks from January to June 2022, related to hygiene or animal welfare.

Violations include 70 written warnings and 62 fines to red meat slaughterhouses, and 147 warnings and 122 fines to poultry sites. However, not all of these potential shortcomings have been established and some are the subject of appeals.

Warnings and fines were down for red meat slaughterhouses compared to the same period in 2021 and July to December 2021, despite more controls. They also fell in poultry facilities compared to the previous two periods. 

Hygiene failures
Under the food safety theme, four areas are covered: working hygienically, animal by-products, microbiological standards, and traceability. A total of 119 violations were established at red meat sites, including 70 written warnings. There were 49 violations worthy of a fine, of which 24 have not yet been settled because the operator lodged an objection or appeal. The number of non-compliances has remained steady in recent periods with the majority related to working hygienically.

For poultry slaughterhouses, 224 violations were observed and 146 led to a warning. There were 78 violations that prompted a fine, of which 33 have not yet been settled because the operator has filed an appeal. Most violations are related to working hygienically.

Supervising veterinarians and inspectors intervene if there are shortcomings and make adjustments if necessary. This is to prevent animal welfare or food safety from being compromised. For example, the slaughter line can be temporarily shut down. This allows the slaughterhouse to rectify an existing violation or prevent non-compliance.

Gerard Bakker, Inspector General of the NVWA, said: “The figures show that slaughterhouses are currently not taking sufficient responsibility to guarantee animal welfare and food safety. It goes wrong too often and it has to be improved. The required change and attitude of the sector must come from the industry itself. Where the business community falls short, we intervene.”

The 39 large slaughterhouses in the Netherlands are under permanent supervision by NVWA.

Slower slaughter speeds required
Earlier this month, the NVWA withdrew permission to slaughter at high speed from a poultry facility in Limburg. The site, which was not named, has also been placed under stricter supervision after corrective measures and reports on findings didn’t lead to a sufficient improvement in processes.

The agency found various hygiene and animal welfare violations at the company in recent months including animals pressed against each other when unloading transport containers.

Plants that slaughter at high speed require specific permission and need to meet animal welfare and hygiene requirements.

The slaughterhouse had permission to slaughter 7,500 broilers per hour. Due to the suspension, it now can operate at the general maximum rate of 6,000 per hour. The maximum permitted slaughter speed for broilers in the Netherlands is 13,500 per hour.

The site has five months to make improvements. It must meet the requirements for a consecutive period of three months to be allowed to slaughter at a higher speed. If this doesn’t happen, permission for faster slaughter rates could be revoked definitively. Approval of the company could also be suspended.

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