Cornwall cracks down on meat crime

A new regional multi-agency working group has been set up in Cornwall to help tackle issues facing the meat industry. 

Backed by Crimestoppers, agencies including Cornwall Council’s Environmental Health and Trading Standards teams and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) will work together to prevent poaching, illegal slaughter, livestock theft and subsequent illegal meat supplies from the rural community and food businesses.

It is believed that the issues are not limited to single instances of criminality but, on occasion, are linked to wider-scale organised crime that compromises animal welfare and food safety. This can include theft, trespassing and firearms offences.

“Anyone supplying food, regardless of the type of customer, is legally obliged to notify the Local Authority’s Environmental Health Department in the first instance,” said Geoff Brown, Cornwall Council’s cabinet member for communities.

“In some instances you may also require an additional approval from the Food Standards Agency or local authority. The local authority will be able to advise if this is the case.”

He suggested that storage, transport and processing rooms be fitted for purpose and that the industry must be able to provide traceability and the necessary processing records of food that is being supplied, regardless of the nature of the product. “Some farmed species may only be slaughtered in approved premises, where the meat is to be supplied outside the immediate household,” he continued.

“Where legal requirements aren’t being met, you are at risk of having sanctions taken against you, such as seizure of products and, potentially, prosecution in the criminal courts, resulting in loss of confidence and reputational damage.”

The aim of the organisations working together is so that they can share information and combine forces, knowledge and skills to target and halt criminal activity.

Manuel Sarnago, field veterinary leader at the FSA, commented: “While animals going to slaughter are subject to ante-mortem inspection by veterinary surgeons and post-mortem inspection by authorised officers from the Food Standards Agency, hunted animals can receive these inspections by trained hunters, who are registered as food businesses with local authorities.

“These requisites are laid down in law to help protect consumer and animal health and animal welfare. All food businesses processing and/or trading with products of animal origin would also need to be aware of the legal requirements relating to the identification, treatment and disposal of animal by-products.”

Wildlife crime officer PC Martin Beck, of Devon and Cornwall Police, said the public needed to work with the police and its partners to protect people from harm. “We recognise that rural crime such as theft, trespass with firearms and poaching are of concern and we wish to work with the public to solve issues and bring offenders to justice,” he said.

“If anyone has information about who is involved, what they are doing, how they are doing it and when, we need to know.”

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