EU meat industry welcomes new pig inspection rules

By Carmen Paun, in Brussels

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags European union Pork

EU meat industry welcomes new pig inspection rules
The European Livestock and Meat Trading Union (UECBV) has welcomed new European Union (EU) pig meat inspection rules, backed by a key European Commission committee, that sanction a more risk-based approach than in the past.

Brussels’ Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCoFCAH) has now agreed a revised EU regulation that will force national meat inspectorates to tailor their inspection programmes to target major existing pigmeat health problems.

“In the UECBV’s opinion, this reform, which allows meat inspection to adapt to current risks, will enhance food safety,”​ Jean-Luc Mériaux, the UECBV secretary general told​.

While EU meat inspection rules have been reformed since they were first agreed in the 1960s, basing them on risk assessments is a new development. Mériaux said this would help stop inspectors wasting time on threats that had already been reduced through effective health controls. “While some diseases are almost eradicated within the EU, other risks with no visible signs have been identified,”​ he explained.

A European Commission statement said the new system would enhance controls for diseases such as salmonella and trichinella.

The SCoFCAH regulation – agreed on Wednesday – was based on advice from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). In theory, the decision could be challenged by the European Parliament and EU Council of Ministers, but this is not expected to happen.

The new rules will have to be followed by national meat inspection authorities in the EU’s 27 member countries. The reforms amend classical post-mortem inspection procedures, telling national inspectorates to stop relying on physical palpation or incision, to initially focus on visual inspections.

EFSA warned in a 2011 report that regular palpation and incision can actually spread bacteria, making livestock sicker than they were before being inspected.

That said, the agency agreed that relying on visual checks could mean diseases were missed in their early stages, (for more developed diseases affecting several organs, the difference in success rates for visual inspection and palpation/incision would be minimal though). EFSA recommended palpation and incision be used “as a follow-up to visual inspection whenever relevant abnormalities are seen”.

A European Commission statement added: “The rules reflect the new risks identified in the EFSA opinion and re-orientate meat inspection to address these risks in order to maintain the highest level of consumer protection, without compromising animal health and welfare objectives and without increasing costs associated with these inspections,”​ said a European Commission statement.

Meanwhile, the UECBV likes the changes so much it wants them applied to cattle and sheep in the near future too. EFSA is expected to deliver recommendations on new rules for inspecting cattle and sheep meat by the end of June, which will then be debated by the EU animal health committee.

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