Scots appeal to Chancellor on meat inspection

Scottish meat bosses are calling on the UK's Chancellor to take action over the UK's meat inspection and BSE regulatory regime, or run the risk of job losses and reduced tax revenues.

Ian Anderson, executive manager of the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW), in writing to the chancellor Alistair Darling, said: “In this time of severe economic hardship for both the UK Government and the British meat industry, proportionate meat inspection controls would save government and struggling meat companies many millions of pounds."

He added that action by the government on meat controls could “avoid the double blow of higher unemployment and reduced tax revenues”, while still safeguarding consumers.

After pointing out that SAMW member companies have a combined turnover of more than £700m a year and directly employ over 3,000 staff, Anderson said meat controls are currently “very prescriptive”, particularly those introduced in response to the BSE epidemic some 20 years ago.

“The UK government funded these controls, but the meat industry has also had to shoulder very heavy additional costs,” he wrote. “These very onerous burdens are shared by both parties to this day.

“There is no doubt that the BSE controls were absolutely essential at the time they were brought in – indeed, they might well have saved the livestock and meat industry. However, the disease situation has transformed beyond recognition since then, with BSE almost eradicated in the UK, and indeed right across Europe. The case to support the current disproportionate regime is no longer valid and many of the existing suite of controls could be discontinued commensurate with today’s very low risk.

“I should be grateful if you would consider our suggestion that revision of the meat inspection and BSE regulatory regime would benefit both the Government and meat industry, while providing adequate controls to safeguard consumers.”