Monday 21 January 2013

Horsemeat scandal should have been picked up in UK


Horsemeat scandal should have been picked up in UK

Proper government investment in trading standards and meat hygiene services could have meant the horsemeat burger scandal was picked up in the UK rather than relying on the Irish authorities UNISON said today.

The UK’s largest union said that swingeing cuts to these vital services are severely limiting the ability of hard-working officers to protect the public, and warned against watering down EU meat inspections.

Food labelling is one of the many issues overseen by trading standards officers, yet services across the UK have shrunk as their budgets have dwindled.

There have been dramatic falls in levels of activity across the board including: a 29% drop in new prosecutions a 26% fall in the total number of scheduled inspections a 24% fall in the total number of visits for enforcement purposes

In the UK meat inspectors in abattoirs physically inspect all meat leaving the premises –which is vital to safeguard consumers. Despite this, within the EU there are plans to water down these proposals, or allow the industry to self-regulate, which UNISON has strongly warned against. UNISON assistant general secretary Karen Jennings said: “While horsemeat isn't a threat to health, it does pose the question ‘do we know what's in our burgers?’ “The public deserve to have confidence in the products they buy; this confidence comes from trading standards services having the resources available to check the labelling products and pick up offences early, and from the work of meat inspectors and vets in abattoirs.

“Trading standards officers work hard to ensure that products pose no risk to consumers, but as their budgets are slashed, their ability to identify problems, inspect premises and prosecute wrongdoers has become severely limited.

“The real danger in this case is the quality and wholesomeness of meat in abattoirs. We need to avoid disease and contamination, and things like excrement making it into our food. This danger is avoided in the UK by the work of meat inspectors and vets in abattoirs.

“The issue with horsemeat in burgers is yet another example of why the industry isn't fit to regulate itself. It is vital that we continue the independent physical inspection of meat in the UK and the rest of the EU."