UK union objects to EU pig inspection proposals

Moves to limit the inspection of pig carcases in slaughterhouses are expected to be made by government officials from across the EU, including the UK, in Brussels next week.

However, the UK’s biggest public sector union Unison has claimed that a relaxation on pig carcase inspection could allow abscesses and tumours from sick animals to enter the food chain.

Unison claimed that, if changes were approved, necessary checks on pig carcases would not be as detailed. It said symptoms of disease and ill-health in food animals were currently removed by independent inspectors, who stop “cysts, abscesses and tumours from being processed into food for sale”, but the proposed measures could prevent this from happening.

National officer for Unison Ben Priestley said: “Proper meat inspection is the only way to make sure the food on our plates is wholesome. People do not want to risk having sausages contaminated with abscesses and tumours and – without independent inspection – do not trust meat producers and supermarkets to prevent that happening.

“The Food Standards Agency (FSA) and the government should listen to advice from the people who actually carry out the inspections. It was ‘light touch’ regulation and the weakening of independent inspection that led to the horsemeat scandal across Europe and the lessons of that are now being ignored.”


However, FSA director of operations Andrew Rhodes said such allegations were untrue. He said: “It’s categorically untrue and scaremongering to suggest that the new system will be putting people – or their sausages – at risk. If it did, we wouldn’t be doing it; it’s as simple as that.”

In agreement with the FSA, Stephen Rossides, director of the British Meat Processors’ Association (BMPA), said: “The Commission’s proposals to modernise official inspections of pigs are based on an EFSA scientific opinion, and are a welcome step in the direction of a more appropriate and risk-based approach to meat inspection that addresses today’s food hazards, and so improves consumer protection. We look forward to future proposals to modernise inspections of cattle and sheep.”

Meat inspection overhaul

Rhodes also explained that the meat inspection system was over 100 years old and needed “overhauling” to bring it in line with risks present on farms, slaughterhouses and cutting plants today.

He said scientific evidence indicated modern health hazards to be microbiological, adding: “We have to be careful that the inspection process itself – using incisions for example – doesn’t contribute to spreading bacteria to the meat, such as salmonella.

“Changes to the visual inspection regime are supported by our own research, as well as an independent risk assessment by EFSA, which shows there will be no increased risk for consumers, animal health or welfare controls.”


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