FSA asked to “beef up” meat inspection

The union Unison is calling for the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to make toxoplasmosis tests a routine part of meat inspection.

New figures revealed that up to 1,000 people are being infected by toxoplasmosis every day, which equates to more than 350,000 people each year.

The disease has damaging consequences for people of all ages and sexes, but is more serious for pregnant women and their unborn children, said the union.

Meat can be made safer by meat inspectors on production lines checking carcases for toxoplasmosis as part of their other routine checks.

Unison is not only calling for added tests, but for the FSA to “beef up” its current inspection regime for tackling faecal contamination in meat. Unison national officer Ian Adderley explained that meat inspectors often report animal carcases as unclean when they reach abattoirs.

Faecal contamination can cause public health issues, such as salmonella and E.coli. Unison said it is down to the abattoirs to produce clean carcases, free from faecal contamination. “But all too often the emphasis is on producing carcases as quickly and cheaply as possible,” said Adderley.  

He added: “Meat inspectors work tirelessly day-in day-out to make sure the meat on our plates is safe to eat. They could be at the frontline of cutting the number of toxoplasmosis cases in the UK. But all too often, when they report problems to the FSA it fails to act.”

“To protect public health, we want the FSA to more stringently enforce meat safety regulations. They need to make checking for toxoplasmosis a regular part of meat inspection. They must also take the issue of faecal contamination seriously by supporting meat inspectors on production lines to stop contaminated meat making its way onto our plates.”

A spokesman for the FSA said: "It is surprising and disappointing that Unison is suggesting that the FSA would deliberately cut corners on food safety, or fail to act on evidence that the correct procedures are not being followed.

"Unison appear to be implying that meat inspectors are allowing contaminated meat to enter the food chain, but the evidence doesn’t support this. Our most recent post mortem inspection checks have shown 99.3% food hygiene compliance in meat plants, which suggests that the way our staff are enforcing meat hygiene regulations is working well."

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