UNISON issues supermarket challenge

UNISON, the UK’s largest union, today called on the country’s biggest supermarkets to back its campaign to guarantee that the meat they sell is safe to eat and their products labelled correctly.  The union is contacting Britain’s biggest supermarkets urging them to oppose plans by the EU to drastically cut the meat inspection regime.  
Meat hygiene inspectors are employed in abattoirs up and down the country and inspect every carcass for signs of TB, dog and human parasites, foot and mouth and other diseases as well as faecal contamination. They are also responsible for ensuring that any contaminated meat does not get into the food chain via burgers or sausages.  

A recent survey published by Mintel showed that less than half (49%) of consumers trusted the safety of their food and 37% disagreed that supermarkets were aware of the origin of their food. In addition independent research conducted for Labelling Matters shows that 83% of consumers in the UK want to know which farm system has been used to produce their meat and dairy products, and 79% said farm animal welfare was important when deciding which food products to buy.[1] <#_ftn1>

Paul Bell, UNISON National Officer for Meat Hygiene Inspectors, said:

“The reputation of some of the biggest supermarkets in the country has taken a real knocking because of the latest horse meat scandal.  It is in their own interests to reassure customers that they are doing all they can to make sure that the meat they sell is safe to eat.

“This is true especially for burgers, sausages and ready to eat meals where consumers have lost trust that the supermarkets can guarantee the contents are wholesome and the contents labelled fully and honestly.

“We want supermarkets to back our campaign to keep meat hygiene inspectors and rigorous inspection at the heart of consumer protection. Plans from the EU, backed by the UK government, are set to limit inspection and weaken those defences opening the door to diseased animals getting into the food chain.  

“As one meat hygiene inspector put it ‘if you stop looking for it, you stop finding it and you start eating it’.”

Currently, symptoms of disease or ill-health in animals, killed for food, are prevented from entering the food chain by meat inspectors, independent of the meat producers. They stop cysts, abscesses and tumours from being processed into food for sale.

If the changes are not stopped by MEPs, the only checks in future will be visual. A range of unpleasant symptoms of illness in pigs will be processed into food unchecked and unnoticed. The European Food Standards Agency has issued very specific scientific opinion that will lead to a change in legislation and an end of UK meat inspectors examining lymph nodes during post-mortem inspection.
Unfortunately the UK’s Food Standards Agency has ‘form’ accepting the advice issued for pigs, when it knows they can be infected by Bovine TB. [http://www.food.gov.uk/news-updates/news/2013/jun/efsa-meat#.UdFofDu38mE <http://www.food.gov.uk/news-updates/news/2013/jun/efsa-meat#.UdFofDu38mE> <http://www.food.gov.uk/news-updates/news/2013/jun/efsa-meat#.UdFofDu38mE <http://www.food.gov.uk/news-updates/news/2013/jun/efsa-meat#.UdFofDu38mE> > ]