UK industry defends pig carcase inspection reform
The British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) and the Food Standards Authority (FSA) hit back at claims made by the UK’s largest public sector union, Unison. According to Unison, government leaders from across the EU are expected to approve plans to limit pig carcase inspection in slaughterhouses next week, which is claimed risked the contamination of food.
The union said that symptoms of disease and ill-health in food animals, which are currently removed by independent inspectors, could end up in the food chain if the proposed measures went ahead.
National officer for Unison Ben Priestley said: “Proper meat inspection is the only way to make sure the food on our plates is wholesome. People do not want to risk having sausages contaminated with abscesses and tumours and – without independent inspection – do not trust meat producers and supermarkets to prevent that happening.
“The Food Standards Agency (FSA) and the government should listen to advice from the people who actually carry out the inspections. It was ‘light touch’ regulation and the weakening of independent inspection that led to the horsemeat scandal across Europe and the lessons of that are now being ignored.”
But FSA director of operations Andrew Rhodes told Globalmeatnews.com that the allegations were untrue and said it was “scaremongering” to suggest that the system would put people – “or their sausages” – at risk. He said: “If it did, we wouldn’t be doing it; it’s as simple as that.”
Director of the BMPA Stephen Rossides said the move was positive for the industry and said the proposals to “modernise” official pig inspections were based on scientific opinion from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
He said: “[They] are a welcome step in the direction of a more appropriate and risk-based approach to meat inspection that addresses today’s food hazards, and so improves consumer protection. We look forward to future proposals to modernise inspections of cattle and sheep.”
Rhodes highlighted that the current meat inspection system was over 100 years old and needed “overhauling” in order to make it more effective against current risks on farms, slaughterhouses and in cutting plants.
He said: “We have to be careful that the inspection process itself – using incisions for example – doesn’t contribute to spreading bacteria to the meat, such as salmonella.
“Changes to the visual inspection regime are supported by our own research, as well as an independent risk assessment by EFSA, which shows there will be no increased risk for consumers, animal health or welfare controls.”