Christmas turkey, pigs-in-blankets and meat stuffing could become health hazards under moves to scrap independent abattoir inspectors employed by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), says UNISON today (Friday).
More than three in five (62%) people would be less confident their festive meat treats would be safe to eat if this were to happen, according to a survey commissioned by the union.
The findings are based on responses from nearly 2,000 (1,847) people quizzed over FSA proposals to increase the number of slaughterhouse inspections by private companies.
Inspections are currently carried out by government employed staff. But the FSA is planning to reduce the number of its own inspectors, leading to what UNISON believes will be a fully privatised service in future.
UNISON says the FSA proposals could lead to abattoirs effectively approving the safety of their own meat, with fewer independent inspections undertaken by meat hygiene staff and vets from the FSA. Nearly three-quarters of people questioned (74%) said these changes would be a concern.
Nearly four in five (79%) said inspections should remain the responsibility of both the government and the FSA. The vast majority (87%) of respondents to the UNISON survey also want external government inspectors to carry on assessing food safety and quality standards for slaughterhouses.
Many laws around UK meat inspections are based on European regulations. Despite Brexit, more than half (51%) of those questioned in the UNISON survey want to keep these laws after the country has left the EU. Only a third (33%) said Britain should create new rules.
UNISON national officer Paul Bell said: “It’s the duty of the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to protect the public by ensuring what’s on their plate is fit to eat. The results of our survey show people don’t want these changes and fear the consequences.
“No wants to go down with food poisoning or worse over Christmas. But toxic turkeys and suspect sausages could become the grim reality for consumers if independent, state-employed meat inspections are scaled down or scrapped altogether. The FSA should think again and put public safety first.”
Notes for editors:
– A full copy of the survey is available here
– ComRes interviewed 1,847 adults from England and Wales online between 14 and 15 December 2016. Data were weighted to be representative by gender, age, socio-economic grade and region. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.
– ComRes asked people the following questions:
Q1. Generally speaking, do you think of yourself as Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, UKOP, Plaid Cymru or another party?
Q2. The Food Standards Agency is currently responsible for ensuring every animal slaughtered for human consumption is independently inspected to prevent diseased or contaminated meat from entering the food chain. The government is currently considering making greater use of private contractors and scaling down the number of inspections carried out by independent inspectors. Do you think that meat inspection in slaughterhouses should be privatised, or should it remain the responsibility of government meat inspectors?
Q3. If meat inspection were privatised, would you feel more or less confident that meat would be safe to eat, or would it make no difference?
Q4. Which of the following statements comes closer to your opinion?
Slaughterhouses should be required to have their food safety and quality standards independently assessed by external, government inspectors.
Slaughterhouses should not be required to have their food safety and quality standards. independently assessed by external, government inspectors if they are employing a member of their own staff to do so.
Q5. To what extent, if at all, would you be concerned or unconcerned about changes that would see fewer independent inspections by FSA vets and inspectors, and more inspections by private contractors and slaughterhouses themselves?
Q6. A large proportion of the laws that govern how meat is inspected in the UK are based upon European regulations, which could change when the UK leaves the EU. Which of the following statements comes closest to your view on what should happen to these laws when the UK leaves the EU?
The UK should keep the existing laws that govern how meat is inspected.
The UK should create new laws that govern how meat is inspected.
– The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is currently responsible for ensuring every animal slaughtered for human consumption is independently inspected. This is to prevent diseased or contaminated meat from entering the food chain.
The FSA is planning to scale down the number of its inspectors and make greater use of private contractors. There is also a suggestion that abattoirs might in future be able to carry out their own inspections.
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