Quarter of abattoirs fail hygiene tests
Cuts to FSA
abattoir inspections are to go ahead despite growing concerns about failing
The Unison union
has warned that the FSA’s plans to cut inspections will increase the risk of dirty
meat ending up on people’s plates. E-coli food safety campaign group HUSH
(Haemolytic Uraemic Syndrome Help) has also issued the same warning.
The warnings follow
a report in the Observer, which found that 25 per cent of abattoirs are failing
carcasses coming into contact with the factory floor, cutting equipment not
being sterilized or washed properly, and meat splashed with dirty water that
could potentially contain faecal matter.
hygiene standards are being raised as the FSA cuts to auditing services at
abattoirs come into force. Plants with two consecutive good audit outcomes will
be visited every 36 months rather than every 18. Veterinary auditors that
conduct FSA audits are independent from plant inspection teams.
standards in abattoirs mean food poisoning could become the grim reality for
consumers,’ warns Unison national officer Paul Bell.
‘The risk of dirty
meat ending up on people’s plates will increase further if the Food Standards
Agency scraps its independent abattoir inspectors.
‘The FSA has a
responsibility to protect the public. That means ensuring slaughterhouses are
properly monitored instead of effectively approving their own meat.’
The Observer report
was compiled from an analysis of government audits from 323 abattoirs in
England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
co-founder of HUSH, said the inspection service needs to be strengthened not
cut. He argued: ‘If you are looking at 25 per cent, it isn’t a very good starting
point. Even if you have a very good slaughterhouse - if they know they are not
going to be inspected for months their standards could slip.
‘The FSA were
talking about using new technology to help cut the inspection times but they
haven’t produced anything to show what these [new technologies] are.’
Currently meat is
not tested for contamination other than a visual inspection and Mr Nash has
called for randomised testing for bacteria. He argued that slaughterhouses not
meeting hygiene standards were ‘breaking the law’ and the FSA should be working
harder to enforce the legislation.
by the Observer team and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism also found that
FSA records had been falsified to conceal true levels of meat contamination at
an English abattoir. It reported that a whistleblower said contamination data
was misrecorded to mask poor hygiene practices.
The FSA responded
saying: ‘Following a whistleblowing case, falsification of records was
established in one abattoir and action taken, but at no time did this present a
risk to public health. The FSA has recently implemented a revised
system for capturing contamination data.’
hygiene verification system’ was introduced in January this year. An FSA spokesperson
told EHN: ‘The revised system assesses hygienic
production at all points of the processing line in place of the one point of
the processing line assessment carried out under the old system. Only trained
staff can participate in these checks to ensure the data is robust and remove
potential for errors due to multiple users.’
released by the FSA said that the recent media reports of contaminated meat did
not give a ‘complete picture’ of ‘the condition of meat entering the food
chain, or on the work done by the FSA to ensure that the meat we eat is safe.’
It added: ‘Our Meat
Hygiene Inspectors and Official Veterinarians inspect every red meat and
poultry carcass for visible contamination - 99.57per cent of them pass the
test. The remaining 0.43 per cent is rejected and passed back to the food
business, and they have to rectify the problem. This is the work that our staff
do day in, day out, 365 days a year. If it doesn’t pass, then it does not get a
health mark and it does not enter the human food chain.’
The FSA statement
added that it takes ‘robust enforcement action to ensure food businesses improve their
procedures to prevent meat becoming contaminated in the first place.’
The FSA statement
said it could take away a premise’s approval to operate if standards if the
risk to the public is high and that it has no plans to ‘do away with real time
meat inspection’. Any changes, it said, will be done in collaboration with