Chicken scandal update: Union joins call for stricter food inspection

Union bosses are calling for food inspection services to be ramped back up in the wake of headline claims in The Guardian over chicken production.

The Guardian claimed undercover footage, photographic evidence and information from a whistleblower showed two leading poultry companies breaching biosecurity rules. The investigation by Felicity Lawrence accused both 2 Sisters and Faccenda of flouting hygiene standards.

The 2 Sisters Food Group has denied the claims. Meanwhile, retailers and the government health secretary Jeremy Hunt have ordered investigations into the supply chain.

Now union leaders at Unite have joined the scrum, and are calling for the restoration of inspection services across the food industry to “at least pre-coalition levels”.

It claimed that, according to a 2013 Food Standards Agency report, of the 608,143 local authority-registered food businesses across the UK, more than 55% were not inspected between April 2012 and March 2013.

The union described it as a drop in inspections, which mirrored a “gradual but significant” decline in food standards funding to the tune of £38.4m since the current government came to power.

Julia Long, Unite’s national officer for the food sector, said: “We are glad that Jeremy Hunt has woken up to the importance of food inspection, but he is a bit late to this party. Where was he when we were fighting to stop cuts to the service?

“Food processing is one of our fastest-growing industries, employing hundreds of thousands of workers. The industry needs an inspection regime that respects this and understands that public safety and confidence are paramount. At the moment, thanks to the running down of the service, a business can look forward to an inspection only once in a blue moon.

“If the government is serious about standards across this industry it must beef up our inspection services, and stop deriding health and safety protections as needless red tape. They are central to public and workforce welfare.”

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