Row over emergency-slaughter meat

A row has erupted over meat passed fit for human consumption by meat inspectors being banned from the food chain.

Founder member of the abattoir trade body AIMS Sammy Morphet has slammed the Food Standards Agency (FSA) for a rule that condemns meat from emergency-slaughter animals, which have not been examined live by a vet.

Morphet, who slaughters some 3,000 pigs a week at his Cheshire abattoir, claims the EC ruling is losing abattoirs thousands of pounds for perfectly good meat that is condemned. However, the FSA has aired doubts as to how much meat is involved. 

The abattoir owner, once chairman of the now defunct Association of British Abattoir Operators, has written to every MP and several government departments saying: “The conduct of the FSA is despicable. The message they are sending to every abattoir is that, if they do the right thing and slaughter an animal to relieve suffering, the FSA will punish them by making them lose the value of the carcase for no reason. In addition, good food is being wasted when people are starving.”

AIMS director Norman Bagley said: “The principle Sammy is talking about is as sound and as common-sense as anything. The problem we’ve got is that, under the current regulatory regime, there is nothing that can be done about it. What he is very usefully doing, in my view, is bringing something into the public domain.”

The law on emergency-slaughter animals was changed in 2006. Before then, meat declared fit from injured animals at abattoirs could go into the food chain even without ante-mortem inspection. Under the current ruling, meat from animals that have not undergone ante-mortem inspection must be declared unfit. Hunted wild game is exempt.

Morphet, who only discovered the change in law last autumn when he had to shoot an injured pig – and the meat was rejected by the overseeing vet – claimed the ante mortem inspection requirement served no purpose other than to create jobs for unemployed foreign vets.

In a letter to Morphet, FSA chairman Lord Rooker said that, under current law, the Official Veterinarian (OV) had no choice but to reject the pig meat. The FSA takes animal welfare very seriously, he said.  He concluded by saying he was “very disappointed” in Morphet’s “unhelpful comments regarding FSA OVs”.

Asked if there were any plans to change the current regulation Craig Kirby, head of approvals and veterinary advice at the FSA, said: “Not at all.” He said animals requiring ante-mortem inspection “...isn’t a big deal given that most of these plants have full-time vets anyway.”

He also questioned the view that abattoir owners were losing thousands of pounds as a result, saying that, in eight years as a plant OV, he had only come across two or three cases of animals having to be slaughtered without ante-mortem inspection being carried out first. The industry was consulted widely at the time the changes were being proposed, and Morphet was a member of AIMS at that time.

Morphet has now written demanding to know who was present at meetings when the change of law was being discussed.