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Date: Tuesday 10 June 2014

Deregulation of meat hygiene inspections will result in tragic consequences, warns UNISON

UNISON, the union which represents meat hygiene inspectors in abattoirs and meat plants, today (Tuesday, 10 June) warned MSPs that any deregulation of meat hygiene inspections will result in unsafe meat entering the food chain, with potential tragic consequences.

A recent freedom of information request revealed that since April 2012 meat inspectors and vets have prevented over a million instances of diseased animal carcasses from entering the food chain. This included:

  • 659,000 instances of the Liver Fluke parasite
  • 427,000 instances of pneumonia in red meat carcasses
  • 100,000 instances of adult tape worm
  • 100,000 tumours in chickens
  • 1100 instances of parasitic lung worm in cattle, from entering the food chain.

Dave Watson, head of UNISON bargaining and campaigns, said:
“This shows what a vital job meat inspectors do. We are calling on the Scottish Government to ensure that Food Standards Scotland is focussed on safety of consumers not food industry profits. Meat inspectors and vets must be able to carry out thorough independent inspections, free from food industry influence.”

Dave Watson’s warning came as he was speaking to the Scottish Parliament Health Committee (10 June 2014) who are taking evidence on the Food (Scotland) Bill. The bill proposes a new Food Standards Scotland, which UNISON broadly supports. However, UNISON believes powerful trade bodies see this as a chance to lobby for light touch regulation allowing them to put short term business interests before safety.

Dave Watson also warned:
“Getting this wrong has the potential for tragic consequences. We have been concerned about the lighter touch regulation which has been promoted across UK and EU meat trades.

"Veterinarians and meat hygiene inspectors should be employed by the state to prevent very powerful trade bodies lobbying for relaxed controls which would lead to a drop in inspection standards, and risk decontaminated meat entering the food chain. Scottish food has a strong international reputation for safe quality food and we must do everything in our power to protect that.”

UNISON believes the primary concern of meat inspectors and vets must be to protect consumers not increase food industry profits, and uphold high standards of animal welfare. This will not only protect consumers it will also protect the high quality Scottish food brand which is so important for Scottish jobs.

ENDS

Notes to editor 

1.     UNISON is Scotland largest trade union. We represent the operational workforce of the Food Standards Agency – predominately meat inspectors and vets working in abattoirs and meat plants. We also represent Environmental Health Officers who inspect food premises and undertake food sampling.

2.     Dave Watson, UNISON head of campaigns and bargaining, is giving oral evidence to the Scottish Parliament Health Committee on the Food Standards Bill on 10 June 2014. Our full written submission can be read here http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/response/
EvidencetoScotParlHealthCmttee_FoodScotlandBill_May2014.pdf

3.     UNISON broadly welcomes the main provisions of Food Standards (Scotland) Bill aims to establish Food Standards Scotland and amend the law in relation to food. The full bill can be read here: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/
parliamentarybusiness/Bills/74205.aspx

4.     Information was provided to UNISON by Food Standards Agency under Freedom of Information Act 2000 the full response is attached to email.

5.     UNISON Scotland investigated the impact of cuts on local authority environmental health departments and at the Food Standards Agency. Two surveys of UNISON members confirmed our warnings that cuts are putting public health at risk.

Full briefing can be read here.
http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/
briefings/b031_BargainingBrief_
CutsinFoodSafety+EnvironmentalHealth_Feb2013.pdf

 

For more information contact:

  • Dave Watson, UNISON’s head of campaigns and bargaining, 07958 122409
  • Trisha Hamilton, UNISON’s Communications Officer, 0141 342 2877


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