Video: post-horsemeat legislation throws up concerns

Meat companies are worried about the possible pressures of anticipated legislation following the horsemeat crisis, said Eric Smith, head of food safety at recall company Red 24.

Smith said legislation in the wake of the horsemeat scandal was now pending and “without a doubt” would come into force soon, but he added he was unsure what it would entail. However, legislation would be likely to include sampling measures and Smith said UK meat companies were worried about the costs of sampling and how often they would have to carry this out.

“There is a worry generally in the manufacturing industry about that particular case,” he said. “There has also been a spin-off, in the sense of what people need to implement in their paper systems.” He explained that although most companies do already have reasonably strong HACCP systems in place, “there has been a development for the industry over the last month to provide further guarantees to food manufacturers” about food security.

He said food manufacturers were also having to provide further guarantees of food security to retailers and the multiples when it came to DNA and cross contamination. It was likely that over-testing would reveal minute problems regularly, as highly sensitive equipment could show traces of DNA on multi-species processing lines, he added.

“People are just being ultra-cautious – and you can see the reasons why – but commonsense has to rule at the end of the day,” he said.

Smith noted that as long as the “cleandown” on processing lines was thorough enough between multiple species, then there was no reason to be over-alert. “Caution is good, but it’s costly,” he said.

Global industry, global problems

The meat industry is a global world, Smith said, and he claimed a globalised industry created problems in controlling standards. “We had one incidence of one product being handled by 10 different agents down the line. It raises the issue that it’s difficult to control [some standards] in the supply chain.”

He said he was adamant that supply chain management caused the horsemeat issue to occur, adding that it would fail again. “There’s still a lot of evidence out there and we’re finding that companies have inadequate supply chain control.

“The bottom line has always been pecked away and sampling methods of control, auditing of companies” could help to improve the industry further, but auditing would be the best bet to improve supply chain management and security, he said, although he acknowledged that this was costly to carry out on a global scale.