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UNISON: Survey shows people don’t want meat inspection changes

By Joe Whitworth+

11-Jan-2017

©iStock/stevanovicigor
©iStock/stevanovicigor

Nearly four out of five people believe meat inspections should remain the responsibility of government and the Food Standards Agency (FSA), according to UNISON.  

Older respondents (85% 45-54, 83% 55-64, 87% 65+) were more likely than younger (69% 18-24, 72% 25-34, 73% 35-44) to say this, according to a survey last month commissioned by the union.

Findings are based on responses from nearly 2,000 people in England and Wales asked about FSA proposals to increase the number of slaughterhouse inspections by private companies.

Inspections are currently by government employed staff. But UNISON said the FSA is planning to reduce its own inspectors leading to what it believes will be a fully privatised service in future.

FSA: We are not planning to scrap independent inspectors

The FSA is responsible for ensuring every animal slaughtered for human consumption is independently inspected to prevent diseased or contaminated meat from entering the food chain.

UNISON said the agency is planning to scale down its inspectors and make greater use of private contractors and abattoirs might be able to carry out their own inspections.

The FSA told us it was ‘absolutely untrue’ to suggest it would take any action that would put consumers at risk.

“We are required by law to ensure that meat and poultry is inspected to make sure it is fit for human consumption when it leaves the slaughterhouse,” it said.

“We are not planning to scrap independent meat inspectors and all inspections will continue to be carried out in accordance with very strict standards laid down by us.”

Company responsibility?

UNISON said the FSA proposals could lead to abattoirs approving the safety of their own meat, with fewer independent inspections by meat hygiene staff and vets from the FSA.

Nearly three-quarters of people (74%) said these changes would be a concern.

However, younger respondents were more likely to not be concerned (15% of 18-24 year olds vs. 7% of 65+ year olds).

The vast majority (87%) also want external government inspectors to carry on assessing food safety and quality standards for slaughterhouses.

A majority (62%) of adults said they would feel less confident that meat would be safe to eat if inspection was privatised.

Older people (73% 45-54, 73% 55-64, 72% 65+) were more likely than younger adults (43% 18-24, 49% 25-34, 58% 35-44) to say this.

Many laws around UK meat inspections are based on European regulations. More than half (51%) want to keep the laws after leaving the EU. Only a third (33%) said Britain should create new rules.

Older English and Welsh adults were around twice as likely as younger adults to say the UK should create new laws that govern how meat is inspected (42% of 65+ year olds vs. 22% of 18-24 year olds).

Paul Bell, UNISON national officer, expressed concern if independent, state-employed meat inspections are scaled down or scrapped.

It’s the duty of the Food Standards Agency 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. The FSA should think again and put public safety first.”

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