Across England and Wales, people rely on the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to secure and promote healthy eating. It was set up to balance the interests of the food industry with those of consumers. Today, the Government plans to fundamentally alter the FSA's purpose.
Click HERE for their leaflet on the proposed changes.
Uniquely within our food industry the actual production of meat is subject to official government inspection. Not only do all slaughter premises need a licence to operate, but independent vets or meat inspectors - usually both - are always present at times when animals are killed. They have responsibility both for animal welfare and ensuring that all meat allowed into the human food chain is disease free, safe and healthy to eat.
The FSA plans to do away with real time official meat inspection in slaughterhouses and to replace officials with just periodic risk assessments of how abattoirs operate or rely on profit driven contractors. Their proposals fail to recognise the reality of meat production and the hazards it poses to public health.
Death and ill health
Make no mistake, unsafe meat is a killer. It has cost lives and remains a major source of serious ill-health. In the 1990s, both E. coli and BSE led to deaths from eating meat. As recently as 2012 the horse meat scandal sharply evidenced ongoing malpractice on an international scale.
The FSA wants us to believe it's best that responsibility for meat quality lies with the industry itself. That's despite the dreadful recent record of poultry meat production where, overwhelmingly, chicken sold in the major supermarkets was shown to be highly contaminated with the campylobacter bacteria from chicken guts. In poultry abattoirs, vets and official meat inspectors are deliberately left powerless to prevent the dangerous contamination of meat.
The content of animal guts causes the most serious hazards to human health. Evisceration of animal carcasses during the slaughtering poses an ever-present risk that they become contaminated with faecal matter. And it's the failure to identify and remove such contaminated meat that causes illness and death.
Time and again the meat industry has shown it's not to be trusted. Without the closest supervision its products can't be relied on as healthy and safe. Undercover filming by animal rights groups has repeatedly exposed the cruelty and abuse inflicted on animals in abattoirs when vets and official inspectors aren't at hand to protect their welfare.
What meat inspectors do
After slaughter, they inspect the carcass of every animal killed, both inside and out, to look for contamination and signs of disease.
They check animal welfare, when staff are available, to ensure animals are treated humanely and suffer no acts of cruelty.
They require unfit or diseased ridden meat to be destroyed.
They verify where each animal has come from through passport and livestock documentation.
They monitor the stunning and killing of animals after checks for signs of disease.
They take bacterial samples of animals with tuberculosis lesions.
They inspect hygiene where the meat is held in cold stores.
They record all inspections, monitor and recommend improvements to slaughterhouses.
They are the eyes, ears and voice of the consumer throughout the production process.
To suggest they can be adequately replaced by a paper exercise of assessing risks abattoir by abattoir without compromising consumer interests in safety, health and animal welfare is plainly ludicrous.