Meat industry is a “health business”

A leading academic has called on the meat and livestock industry to acknowledge that it is in the “health business” as it tackles consumer confidence in a post-BSE environment.

Dr Patrick Wall, a professor of public health, at the University College Dublin, was speaking at the annual conference of the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW) last weekend.

He said: “If I were to ask you what business you were in, most of you would say the packing and slicing industry. But you supply food, the fuel for the body, and you’re in the health business.”

On the topic of Changing Times: the legacy of BSE, Wall said the industry should be careful about talking about “relaxing” BSE controls.

Wall said: “We are keeping the controls in proportion to the risk. It is not that we are giving them [the public] less protection. There is no point having controls if you don’t need them.”

He added: “The meat sector now is a very different industry to that in existence pre-BSE. Consumer trust was damaged and had to be re-earned. It is important that any changes do not damage this trust, as brands and reputations that take years to build can be destroyed overnight by being associated with a food scare.

“We can confine BSE to the history books, but we have to learn the lessons and ensure the same mistakes are never repeated. Safe food is fundamental for human health and the meat industry must realise that they are responsible for ensuring people who consumer their products are healthy.

“If they accept their responsibilities everyone will be a winner.”

Commenting on the heavy inspection routine of meat plants, Wall added that he had been to heart valve factories and plants where intravaneous fluid is produced, only to find they are checked just once a year by the relevant authorities.

>> BSE testing age upped to 72 months

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