Cuts Limiting Meat Inspection and Standards22 January 2013
UK - The UK’s largest trade union has attacked the government for severely limiting the ability of trading standards and meat hygiene services officers to protect the public becasue of swingeing cuts to the vital services.
And the union has now warned the government against watering down EU meat inspections.
the union, UNISON, said that proper government investment in trading standards and meat hygiene services could have meant the recent horsemeat burger scandal was picked up in the UK rather than relying on the Irish authorities.
Food labelling is one of the many issues overseen by trading standards officers, yet services across the UK have shrunk as their budgets have dwindled, UNISON said.
There have been dramatic falls in levels of activity across the board including: a 29 per cent drop in new prosecutions a 26 per cent fall in the total number of scheduled inspections a 24 per cent fall in the total number of visits for enforcement purposes.
In the UK meat inspectors in abattoirs physically inspect all meat leaving the premises –which is vital to safeguard consumers.
Despite this, within the EU there are plans to water down these proposals, or allow the industry to self-regulate, which UNISON has strongly warned against.
UNISON assistant general secretary Karen Jennings said: “While horsemeat isn't a threat to health, it does pose the question ‘do we know what's in our burgers?’ “The public deserve to have confidence in the products they buy; this confidence comes from trading standards services having the resources available to check the labelling products and pick up offences early, and from the work of meat inspectors and vets in abattoirs.
“Trading standards officers work hard to ensure that products pose no risk to consumers, but as their budgets are slashed, their ability to identify problems, inspect premises and prosecute wrongdoers has become severely limited.
“The real danger in this case is the quality and wholesomeness of meat in abattoirs. We need to avoid disease and contamination, and things like excrement making it into our food. This danger is avoided in the UK by the work of meat inspectors and vets in abattoirs.
“The issue with horsemeat in burgers is yet another example of why the industry isn't fit to regulate itself. It is vital that we continue the independent physical inspection of meat in the UK and the rest of the EU."
TheMeatSite News Desk