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STUC 2013 Perth

Food safety: More robust inspection needed

Ewing Hope
Ewing Hope

UNISON highlighted the recent horse meat scandals caused by cuts to the Food Standards Agency, as Congress backed UNISON’s call for the FSA to be properly resourced to maintain quality in the food chain.

The STUC will demand the return of a much more robust inspection regime which will incorporate the principles of UNISON’s Food for Good Charter. If a Scottish Government consultation results in a devolved Food Standards Agency, this should incorporate all these principles.

Moving the emergency motion, Ewing Hope told Conference that despite all the jokes, the recent food scandals were no laughing matter.

“What these show is a serious shortcoming in the regulation regimes which are supposed to ensure that the food we and our families eat is safe, uncontaminated and is what it says on the packet.

“What angers me most is the Government and their advisors telling us that there is nothing to worry about, that horse meat isn’t dangerous and is safe to eat. Do they think that the criminals who stand to make a fortune by passing horse meat costing £20 a ton as prime beef which costs thousands a time are going to adhere to strict food hygiene procedures as laid down in law that should be policed by a meat hygiene inspector?” asked Ewing.

“Do we really think that these criminals will ensure that there is no chance of their illegal meat being contaminated by food poisoning bacteria?”

He pointed to the “coincidence” that as the scandal broke we saw some of the highest levels of diarrhoea and vomiting, most of which was undiagnosed.

Ewing laid the scandal at the door of the Tory led UK government who dismembered the Food Standards Agency in favour of the” light touch” regulation preferred by the supermarkets, leaving it incapable of protecting public health.

Referring to UNISON’s research he told Congress that the numbers of meat inspectors in Scotland have fallen by 50%; samples taken by Scottish Local Authorities have fallen from over 16.000 in 2009 to just over 10,000 three years later; with specialist food safety inspectors reducing by 21% and environmental health officers by 11%.

UNISON has relaunched its “Food for Good” Charter calling for sustainable, locally sourced food, and Ewing called for these principles to be introduced into all school meals and hospital food.

18 April 2013

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