Why change what works?
UNISON has launched a unique animation talking up what our members do in protecting the public's food. Watch the animation below, take action, and read our FAQs.
Take action HERE. The campaign covers England and Wales.
What is proposed?
To potentially move from a daily onsite civil servant(s) – or government contractor - checking that the for-profit business is upholding animal welfare, removing contaminated or diseased meat, and checking for meat that is not fit for human consumption.
Who is proposing the changes?
The Food Standards Agency (FSA). The FSA is a non-ministerial government department with its own chief executive and board. However, like each government department, they are subject to government policy. The government and the FSA talk about 'risk-based' inspection, which means potentially removing onsite inspections for all but the worst businesses.
Why are we concerned?
The so-called 'modernisation' plan is about reducing the cost of regulation, or in specific terms, potentially removing onsite inspection. Onsite protection is currently in place in most slaughterhouses to stop the industry from cutting corners on food quality and animal welfare. That onsite protection is made up of people on the premises called Official Veterinarians (OV), Meat Hygiene Inspectors (MHI), and contractors working on behalf of the Food Standards Agency (FSA) for us.
Why is removing daily onsite inspection so concerning?
When the industry is left to mark its own homework, it can and does cut corners. Remember the horsemeat scandal, where horses went into the slaughterhouse and “beef” came out. Below are examples of meat scandals over the years.
Thousands of food safety breaches were revealed:
Cutting plants are an excellent example of what could happen in a slaughterhouse. They do not have a daily onsite inspection but are subject to risk-based, ad-hoc visits.
The most famous meat scandal in living memory.
Russell Hulme scandal and mislabelling products:
Use-by dates and meat origins were changed.
How will the changes work in practice?
Every slaughterhouse will have its history of breaches analysed. Each premises will be scored based on the risk they present to the public, though the detail is not yet decided. If the premises is scored as a lower risk, daily onsite inspection could be removed, and the slaughterhouse will be left to determine whether its product is safe and disease free.
What do you mean by diseased meat?
Diseased meat is where the meat you eat is contaminated by unpleasant and life-threatening material. Government guidance lists animal diseases of note here https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/notifiable-diseases-in-animals.
You can find out more information here https://www.protectourfood.org/diseased-meat.
Would the rules be different for UK consumers compared to our exports?
Yes. The draft changes will create a two-tier meat inspection system that could see more rigorous inspection controls on exported meat and associated products than for the home market.
What will happen to the current staff not employed by the business?
The changes could allow the food businesses to take on some if not all meat inspection duties. We call this 'marking your own homework'. Where is the independence and the consumer voice when the ‘for-profit’ motive is left unchecked? In other words, from absence to abscess on your plate.