Food Standards Scotland slams ‘sensationalist’ beef press report

Food Standards Scotland has criticised a press report that inferior meat from Eastern Europe, Ireland and England was being imported and repacked with a premium Scottish label, calling it ‘sensationalist’. 

“We have seen a press report suggesting there is an on-going investigation into the Scottish beef industry,” said a Food Standards Scotland (FSS) spokesman. “These sensationalist headlines are not an accurate reflection of the situation.

“The reality is that the Scottish Food Crime Unit is looking into some claims involving meat but it is important to set these in the context of hundreds of other claims they receive and there is there is no suggestion of any widespread wrong-doing. Equally there is no suggestion whatsoever of any human health issue.

“The work the Scottish Food Crime Unit is doing is fully supported by the Scottish red meat industry to protect the integrity of the red meat supply chain and the reputation for traceability and quality which the industry has earned.”

Ian Anderson, executive manager at the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW) warned that “unfounded allegations” that came to nothing regularly circulated in the industry. The trade believes it is likely the current coverage could fall into that camp and fears the unnecessary damage such coverage could do.

SAMW had not been asked by the crime unit to respond to any current questions and none of its member companies had been approached either over the issue, said Anderson. “If, however, the crime unit was investigating any specific allegations we would have expected to have been informed of this at an early stage.

“Unfortunately the meat industry can be subject to unfounded allegations which are based not on fact or evidence but on an anti-meat agenda. Such allegations will always be made, of course, against the meat industry, the farming industry and the food industry. This has been the case for many years. As the industry’s record of action taken against it shows, however, the steady flow of allegations is almost always without any supporting evidence or factual content.

“As a professional Scottish industry, which is highly regulated on a daily basis by Food Standards Scotland, we rely on the crime unit to be equally professional in examining all such allegations and dealing appropriately with any real evidence of crime which emerges. This is the only way to remove illegal, under-cover and fraudulent businesses from being able to damage the tremendous reputation for quality, safety and high standards for which SAMW’s member companies stand.”

Scott Henderson, vice-chairman of the Scottish Beef Association, told Meat Trades Journal: "Regarding the journalist concerned, if you try long enough and hard enough you will find somebody to give the answers you want. They [FSS] obviously don't have any hard evidence. If they did, they would say there's an ongoing investigation."

The coverage appeared online over the weekend in The Courier, after one of its journalists interviewed Food Standards Scotland intelligence manager Duncan Smith. The article quotes Smith as saying the FSS investigation into the allegations extended beyond one Scottish meat plant.

“It’s coming from all over Europe, England and Ireland, but the problem is it’s getting processed as Scottish beef and it’s not that,” Smith was quoted as saying in the piece. “We’re aware of several places in Scotland where it’s happening.”

Anderson said: “We fully support the role which FSS’s Crime Unit plays in safeguarding the quality, safety and reputation of Scottish meat. These are standards and objectives which apply, and always have applied, to SAMW’s member companies.

“The crime unit, of course, was set up to address issues of food crime and SAMW totally agrees that food crime has no place to play in the functioning of the Scottish meat industry. SAMW can, of course, only speak on behalf of the legitimate, legal businesses, operated by SAMW’s member companies.”

A Quality Meat Scotland spokesperson said: “It is important to recognise that our red meat supply chain is one of the most regulated in the world and those who work in our industry take pride in the traceability underpinning our industry and the integrity of beef from Scotland.

“It is vital the quality reputation of Scotland’s beef is not undermined in any way. If Food Standard Scotland’s Crime Unit has any evidence at any time that any isolated case of poor practice is taking place they will have our industry’s 100% support that action is taken very quickly to stamp this out.

“Our understanding is that the FSS Crime Unit is currently looking into the credibility of one or two claims of poor practice. There is no suggestion of a formal investigation or actual wrong-doing. It is also important to bear in mind that our industry is frequently subjected to unfounded allegations from those with an anti-red meat agenda or from disgruntled former employees.”

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