As the result of a change in legislation, all retail butchers in England were required to be licensed by 1 November 2000. A fully implemented hazard analysis critical control point plan was a condition of the license. This longitudinal study assessed the effect of licensing on hygiene in a group of retail butchers in the West Midlands, England. A hygiene audit and environmental sampling were used to determine if the licensing process improved hygiene in the study group. At the end of the study, 30% of the original group were no longer trading as they had been, having either altered the product they were selling or ceased to trade. The remaining butchers showed a significant improvement in the hygiene of their premises, both in the audit scores and in the environmental sampling. The mean audit score for the group had improved from an initial score of 47.54 to 54.95 (P < 0.02). The contamination with Enterobacteriaceae on equipment used for cooked meat had also improved, decreasing from mean contamination levels of 1.38 log CFU/cm2 before licensing to mean contamination levels of −0.11 log CFU/cm2 after licensing (P < 0.00001).

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