EU Parliament forges ahead with pig inspection changes

The European Parliament has rejected a last-ditch attempt to block changes to EU pig inspection.

The Food Safety Committee tabled a motion on Wednesday to block the proposed change to visual-only inspection, over fears that it could lead to another European food safety scandal.

However, the motion was defeated by 368 votes to 268 with 13 abstentions.

Under the European Commission’s proposals, official vets will be able to declare pork fit for human consumption after a simple visual check, without systematic incision or palpation. Vets will still be allowed to carry out incision and palpation before applying the health mark, but only if data of provenance, previous inspections or visual checks indicate possible risks to public health, animal health or animal welfare.

The changes are based on a study from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which concluded that incision increased the risk of cross-contamination. They have been backed by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and the National Farmers Union (NFU).

EU policy adviser for the NFU Rebecca Wells said: “We worked hard with all MEPs and our colleagues in other member states to ensure the resolution, which had been supported by the European Parliament’s Environment Committee, was defeated by all MEPs today. We are therefore pleased that MEPs supported the Commission’s proposal, which takes a science- and risk-based approach to inspections.

Wells said the vote should “set a precedent ahead of the Commission’s plans to reform post-mortem carcase inspections for other types of meat.”

Veterinary director at the FSA Liz Redmond said: "I am very pleased with the outcome of the vote, which clearly supports the scientific evidence-based approach. The European Commission’s draft regulations on pig meat inspection will now be implemented as voted on by EU member states in May this year. The changes will better target public health risks and provide a more proportionate and risk-based inspection regime.

"There is no indication that the implementation date of June 2014 will change but we will confirm this in the coming weeks. We now need to work hard to meet the implementation date and will continue to engage with the FSA staff and contractors and the meat industry as we progress our programme of work."

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