Despite fears of increased red tape and unnecessary bureaucracy, shoots seem to have taken well to the introduction last year of new Food Standards Agency (FSA) regulations.

By law, every shoot in the country must have at least one person who is fully qualified in the handling of game on hand to carry out an initial examination of game to be supplied to dealers. Shoots must also be registered as food businesses with the local authority and comply with general hygiene requirements. Where larger game is involved, a separate list of requirements must be fulfilled for carcases intended for the food chain. One year on, however, have the FSA regulations made any difference to how game is dealt with by dealers and suppliers?

Peter Hewson, FSA deputy veterinary director, was instrumental in putting the guidelines in place. He told ST: ?From the hunter-training point of view we?ve been impressed by the industry initiative, the way it has tackled the new rules and the way people have reacted to the guidelines in such a positive way. From 1 September we expect the whole industry to be operating to the same standards, where previously there has been a two-tier system governing the domestic and export market.

Shoots have a responsibility to ensure game is going where it should be going: to a legitimate source. Prior to the new regulations coming in, the domestic and export regulations were slightly different ? by September 1, we expect that they will both be brought into line. The guidance document on our website ? www.food.gov.uk ? is fairly comprehensive, providing information on the allowable routes for game, how it should be transported, temperature control and other vital pieces of information. We are giving the domestic market time to come up to speed.?

ST spoke to the Game Farmers? Association, a spokesman for which commented: ?Our impression is that most shoots have been aware of the legislation and taken steps where necessary to abide by it. We have continued to run training courses in game hygiene and are aware that many estates have been installing chillers. There is still some way to go, but the standard of game meat continues to improve, reflected by stronger prices paid this season. Most people who needed training had done it before last year?s deadline.?

Richard Thorne, BASC?s director of shooting standards, told ST: ?Demand for courses continues to be strong. We have courses booked until June next year. We have trained more than 1,800 people so far. In general, the regulations have been accepted and we believe it is the standard towards which people should strive in order to protect the food chain and ensure what shooters put in is fit and proper for human consumption. Shoots have sent keepers on the course in England, Scotland and Wales, and dealers have asked many of the shoots they trade with to make sure they comply with legislation. Encouragement is coming from suppliers and dealers that each adheres to the rules.?

For course details, visit www.basc.org.uk or www.nationalgamekeepers.org.uk