Chain Reactions

By Jane Jordan, ThePigSite Editor. The EU Hygiene Regulations which came into force in 2006 recognised that all primary producers - including livestock farmers - are 'food' producers.
calendar icon 14 December 2007
clock icon 11 minute read

The new law has formalised the 'farm-to-fork' concept and from 1 January 2008 all pig producers must provide Food Chain Information (FCI) about their finished pigs (their products) to the slaughterhouse. Fortunately, no additional on-farm record-keeping is required to comply with these new regulations, although the information required must be readily available.

FCI responsibility

FCI recognises pig farmers as primary food producers. From January 2008 they must submit production criteria with every consignment of pigs sent for slaughter

The Food Standards Agency has the responsibility for ensuring that FCI legislation is applied in the UK. It will be managed through the Meat Hygiene Service although the abattoir is legally responsible for ensuring that it collects all necessary information to comply with the FCI elements of the EU legislation.

The programme is being introduced to ensure that abattoirs have all the correct information needed about the pigs they receive to apply HACCP-based food safety systems. FCI will also be used by FSA and MHS in introducing simplified inspection systems.

The FSA's Simon Tudor says that all livestock sectors throughout the EU must comply with FCI regulations by 2010. Some schemes are already underway although most are in the process of introducing them. All member states must comply with FCI pig requirements by January.

"In the UK the poultry industry was the first to introduce FCI and its working well. Pigs are next, and sheep and cattle FCI will be phased in during the next two years," he told ThePigSite.

Some parties have criticised FCI, dubbing it yet more bureaucracy and red tape that will add costs. Mr Tudor says concerns are justified, but says there will be benefits.

"Yes there is some additional paperwork, but the required information is already being collected and there will be benefits," he adds. "FCI provides producers with feed back of the health and standards of the animals they are producing - which is valuable information."

"There will be benefits. FCI provides producers with feed back of the health and standards of the animals they are producing - which is valuable information."

Simon Tudor, FSA


The FSA believes the system will enhance the already successful Quality Assurance Schemes that the UK pig industry has championed and supports unilaterally.

BPEX hopes that given time the pig industry will get a more streamlined quality assurance, health surveillance and traceability service.

"A scheme that embraces all aspects of FCI and the current Farm Assurance and Pig health Scheme would be a more practical and offer operational saving. We hope this is a possibility," said Andrew Knowles of BPEX.

He says the Executive has already mooted the idea with FSA and it has been positively received.

So, what do pig producers have to do?

As of the 1 January 2008 pig producers will be required to give the abattoir information about their premises site. This one-off data sheet for abattoir records and lists:

  • The owners details (name and address etc)
  • The herd mark number
  • Quality assurance scheme name and membership number
  • ZAP scheme status (Salmonella)
  • Rearing and Finishing system ( e.g. batch/ all-in;all-out production, slats/straw etc)
  • Breeding herd details (indoor/outdoor)
  • Weaner/grower accommodation (indoor/outdoor)
  • Veterinary information

However, every batch of pigs sent to the abattoir must also have FCI consignment details. In addition to basic identity requirements for cross referencing against FCI slaughterhouse records, this information is more specific about the individual batches of pigs supplied. Again it asks for production criteria, e.g. type of rearing system, ZAP scores and QA identification and slap marks, but it also request health details, whether the pigs have been treated for disease, the drugs used, withdrawal periods and if there is any potential risk that the animals may carry residues.

These details will have to be submitted for every class of stock sent for slaughter - including culls and casualties - and the abattoir operator will tell you exactly what information is required, and how they want to receive it.

FCI Abattoir requirements

Abattoirs will have to decide what FCI they require from their suppliers for their own records and also to comply with the legislation. These details are only needed once, although will have to be updated if production system, health status and management methods change on supplier farms.

The FCI received with every batch of pigs sent for slaughter actually encompasses much of the data already required by many UK abattoirs for pig processing. However, any additional details should enhance traceability, the farm-to-fork philosophy and customers' demands for safe healthy meat.

When to deliver FCI

FCI information can be submitted either prior to the pigs being sent for slaughter or with the consignment itself. It is for the abattoir receiving the pigs to decide when they wish to receive FCI information. Abattoirs may wish to receive the FCI in advance to help them plan their slaughter schedule for the day.

It's important to note that this new FCI procedure does not supersede any other legal documentation for the transport and/or handling of pigs for slaughter. Producer must still complete and submit AML2 forms as they are a legal requirement for animal disease control purposes.

However, the FCI form will replace the documentation usually required for casualty slaughter. The FCI form contains all the relevant information required to dispatch theses pigs.

ID for treated pigs?

Abattoirs will have a data base detailing the production systems and health status of supplier farms

Pigs that have received mediation within their final 28 days will not require specific identification. However, casualty pigs will have to be marked as such within the load.

Providing AML2 form and any medicine records for pigs that have been treated in the past 28 days is not be sufficient under new EU Hygiene Regulations.

Abattoirs have to be satisfied that the information pig producers send prior to or with their consignment of pigs fulfils all the FCI requirements and also satisfies their own information needs - that will be the law come 1 January 2008.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has produced draft guidance on FCI which has been sent to abattoirs. Further details and advice is also available from BPEX and NPA websites.

Fortunately, the FSA has listened to the industry's concerns and has recognised the practical difficulties of providing inspection reports for previous consignments in some circumstances. It has decided not to apply this requirement for now. It will reconsider this matter later when the new MHS system for collecting and reporting inspection results is operating smoothly. FSA will also issue revised draft guidance on FCI.

Other outlets

For producers who sell their pigs via a market or collection centre, FSA's practical advice is for markets and abattoirs to co-operate with suppliers (producers) and regular buyers to establish FCI links.

For producers selling pigs via a market, where the destination abattoir is unknown or where the pigs are split into different groups and moved to separate abattoirs, the best advice is to send a single FCI form with the pigs to the market, leaving the consignment number and destination abattoir blank. The auctioneer can then complete the detail regarding destination abattoirs, number of pigs etc as they are sold.

FCI forms can be obtained from abattoir - paper or electronic versions - although producers can use their own, providing they are approved by the abattoir

BPEX also offers an online service where forms and advice may be downloaded at The internet service also allows producers to send FCI information to their abattoirs and receive MHS condemnation results within 48 hours of slaughter. The system links to various databases and users only have to point and click to submit FCI information rather than having to fill out documents by hand.

If producers register with the BPEX online service, then the information about individuals businesses - eg. name, address, vet etc - only has to be completed once. The information is stored and downloaded with every consignment FCI produced. It's a great time saver says BPEX.

For those that are already members of the Quality Assured Pig Scheme the herd/farm assurance number and post code is all that need to be inputted. All other business details are automatically updated.

Data access

The BPEX system also contains a number of databases such as lists of abattoirs, veterinary practices and medicines (including withdrawal periods) which makes completing FCI much quicker and easier.

And FCI forms can be submitted in advance of sending the pigs (the latest you can submit a form online is 4.00am in the day of sending the pigs as the system sends all FCI information to all abattoirs at 5.30am.

Practical Q & A

  • What happens if I use the BPEX system and enter on the system that I am sending 200 pigs the day before sending them to slaughter, but only send 198 when I actually come to load them on the actual day?
    The FCI document is not like the AML2 traceability document therefore the precise number of pigs in the consignment can vary from the numbers provided with the FCI.

  • Why isn't the AML2 form and the FCI form combined as a lot of the information is duplicated?
    Defra requires movement information for disease control purposes on its own, official AML2 form. There is a duplication of information on the two forms and the pig industry is trying to encourage Defra to permit movement information to be included in customised documents (paper or electronic) also containing FCI. This has not been possible to date but this remains a priority to reduce the burden of administration and duplication for producers and abattoirs.

  • Why have I only just heard about this?
    The introduction of FCI for the pig industry has been reported in pig industry press, industry organisations and assurance scheme newsletters, and letters have recently been sent to all abattoirs, pig marketing groups and industry representative bodies. Since responsibility for requesting and receiving FCI rests with abattoirs, FSA has taken the view that abattoirs should decide what FCI they require and how they want to receive it, and then contact their suppliers to make arrangements.

  • Can the introduction of FCI be postponed?
    No - the requirement for FCI will commence on 1 January 2008. However FSA and MHS recognise that this is a new requirement and that 100% compliance may not occur immediately. We understand that the MHS have advised their staff that initially abattoirs can still process pigs that are received with no FCI.

    However after the first month, pigs arriving at abattoirs without FCI will not be health marked until the abattoir and MHS staff have received the FCI documentation. Please do not leave it until the last moment to start sending FCI as this is likely to cause unavoidable disruption to slaughterhouse operations.

  • Who decided on the information that is included in the FCI form?
    The EU legislation states what information the abattoir is responsible for collecting. The abattoir is responsible for collecting the information. The Food Standards Agency has worked with industry to develop draft guidance that it believes fulfils the requirements of the FCI legislation in a simple and practical manner. The aim of the draft guidance is to assist abattoirs in drawing up their own systems for receiving FCI.

    Industry organisations have discussed the FCI forms with FSA to try and minimise the additional burden FCI will place on individual pig businesses and abattoirs.

  • What will happen if I don't send a completed FCI form with my pigs?
    It is the responsibility of the abattoir to collect FCI information. If FCI is not provided the legislation from 01 Jan 2008 requires that carcases are not health marked and therefore cannot enter the food chain. We understand that the MHS have advised their staff that initially abattoirs can still process pigs that are received with no FCI.

    However after the first month, pigs arriving at abattoirs without FCI will not be health marked until the abattoir and MHS staff have received the FCI documentation. Please do not leave it until the last moment to start sending FCI as this is likely to cause unavoidable disruption to slaughterhouse operations.

  • Why does FCI have to be provided for pigs from January 2008 when cattle and sheep don't?
    The EU legislation sets out the timetable for the introduction for FCI. The poultry industry was required to start FCI from January 2006, the pig industry from January 2008 and the cattle and sheep industries will need to complete FCI in the coming years.

December 2007
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