Meat inspection changes debated at AMI conference
Published:  12 September, 2013

Changes to pig inspection have been called dangerous by the president of the Association of Meat Inspectors (AMI).

Speaking to Meat Trades Journal at the AMI’s 48th annual conference, which was held at Harper Adams University last weekend (6-7 September), president Archie Anderson was critical of changes to pig inspection.

Anderson claimed visual inspection in slaughterhouses would see a reduction of meat inspectors and would be a hindrance to meat safety. “The EU is proposing to go from a thorough system of inspection to a casual system of inspection, which is dangerous,” he said.

“They are suggesting that abscesses are of no interest to the consumer, which is rubbish. I don’t think anybody wants abscesses in their pies, but the way the system is designed, these things will be passed.”

Reduce costs

Speaking to delegates at the conference, assistant general secretary of the European Working Community for Food Inspection and Consumer Protection (EWFC), Ron Spellman echoed Anderson’s claims. “The UK and worldwide meat industry has been trying to reduce costs,” he stated.

“Among the processes and costs that the meat industry seeks to remove or reduce are those for which they are charged, inspection and audit – the costs of regulation.”

Spellman also noted that a National Audit Office (NAO) report found meat hygiene costs had reduced by 40% over a period of five years, “in large part due to the steep reduction in staff numbers”, claiming 35% of this was related to meat hygiene inspection roles.

A “burden”

Perhaps some officials at the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and those at EU level see consumer protection as a “burden, an overhead” and a “brake on production”, he questioned, adding it looked as though it should be reduced or avoided where possible.

However, FSA acting head of field applications Martin Evans passionately countered the claims and said: “Nowhere at all have I ever said to anybody that this means any reduction in people at all anywhere.”
However, when he asked delegates to raise their hands if they felt a change to meat inspection worried them, the majority in the room did so.

Yet Evans said: “It evolves the role of meat inspection. Meat inspection will change in the future and nobody can tell me that it has never changed. We have always changed and it always will change. Everybody has an idea of what this means, but some of them are ill-informed.”

A positive change

Meanwhile, FSA deputy veterinary director Javier Dominguez also spoke out against the claims, saying nobody was talking about stopping official controls. “The official control may change, well things in life will change,” he said.

He added that new controls would give meat inspectors more information to target their inspections, adding the new system would fit with the general opinion that the less handling of the carcase, the better.
Finally Evans spoke out to delegates and said: “This is my plea to you: What I want to see is that you have got to be closer to us, rather than fighting us.”