Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Reintroduction of meat inspection in meat cutting plants 'a victory for common sense'

12 Feb 2013

UNISON today welcomed the move from the FSA to initiate some unannounced inspections of meat cutting plants in the wake of the horsemeat scandal, but said the FSA must go further, and put in place daily inspections by FSA meat inspectors.

A communication sent to all Food Standards Agency (FSA) staff has revealed that the Agency has commissioned a programme of unannounced visits to stand-alone cutting plants in England, Scotland and Wales. Under the new programme, red meat is to be prioritised before white meat, and premises giving cause for concern will be inspected first.

All horses killed in the UK will now be tested for the veterinary drug ‘BUTE’, and horse carcases will not be released until negative results are received, but UNISON is also calling for carcasses to be tested for the dangerous parasite, ‘Trichinela Spiralis’.

Ben Priestley, UNISON national officer said:

“UNISON is glad that the FSA has seen sense and has listened to our call to reintroduce unannounced inspections in meat cutting plants. Consumer confidence in meat products is once again very low and, while this is a step in the right direction, true consumer protection will not be achieved until daily, unannounced inspections are back in place.

“The lesson we learned about control of the meat industry following the BSE and e-Coli crises was that only strong, independent government inspection could properly protect consumers from industry malpractice.

“This has been forgotten as meat inspection, environmental health and trading standards services have been severely reduced by government cuts and light touch regulation.”

As a direct consequence of the ‘light tough regulation’ policies of both the European Commission and the UK government, the meat inspection workforce managed by the Food Standards agency has shrunk from a high point of 1700 – during the BSE and e-Coli crises in the 1990s – to around 800 today.

The inspection procedures that were effectively enforced following BSE and the Wishaw outbreak of e-Coli have, in the intervening years, been removed or substantially watered down.

In addition to the programme, UNISON is calling on the FSA to:

Reintroduce daily official inspection of all licensed meat cutting plants and cold storage facilities via capacity within the FSA inspection workforce to deliver the necessary enhancement to consumer protection and public health

Ensure that testing of horses killed in the UK for the drug BUTE is an ongoing safeguard for the consumer and is not a time limited measure in the wake of the horsemeat scandal. See that the horsemeat currently unlawfully sold as beef has been tested for the dangerous parasite, ‘Trichinela Spiralis’.

Move away from light touch, risk based enforcement and maintain an inspection system that delivers ongoing consumer and public health protection and does not become a boom and bust system that responds to consumer and public health crisis, the aim being to avoid the crisis Oversee the independent inspection of food manufacturing premises – where government cuts have compromised the ability of local authorities to do so.

See this news release on the UNISON UK website


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