Dr David Jukes, The University of Reading, UK

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Food Law News - UK - 2017

FSA News Item, 19 September 2017

MEAT / HYGIENE - Ensuring the safe production of meat

Following media reports about practices in slaughterhouses, we are clarifying the role of our teams in ensuring that meat is produced safely.

Food Standards Agency staff do not allow contaminated meat to enter the food chain. We work in more than 300 slaughterhouses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to ensure the safety and authenticity of the food that people buy and eat. Meat Hygiene Inspectors and Official Veterinarians inspect every red meat and poultry carcass for visible contamination, with 99.5% of them passing the test. The rest are rejected and returned to the food business, so that it can rectify the problem.

It is not the case that breaches identified in an audit report mean that any meat leaving that premises is unsafe for consumers. We stand by the quality of the health mark – our inspectors would not stamp meat that could pose a health risk.

The fact that breaches of the rules are identified and swiftly corrected demonstrates that the process is working – it ensures that we are aware of problems and that anything that poses an immediate food safety risk prompts instant action by FSA officials to prevent that meat entering the food chain.

Treatment of our staff

We do not tolerate hygiene and animal welfare breaches and we take robust enforcement action where necessary – we do not hesitate to take businesses to court for serious offences. Prosecutions for failures by businesses have increased over recent years. Since the start of 2016, FSA investigations into alleged offences at approved meat plants have resulted in 20 convictions.

We adopt a zero-tolerance approach towards workplace bullying and harassment. We work to ensure our staff are able to carry out their duties without intimidation.

We have taken forthright action to crack down on bullying and harassment, including the introduction of mandatory training for all field based managers; an improved incident reporting system for all employees and contractors and a new process to make it quicker and easier for managers to deal with reported incidents.

We follow up with food businesses on every single reported incident of bullying or harassment and we take appropriate and proportionate action against those who bully or harass our staff – in the worst cases this can result in us removing our meat inspectors or veterinarians, which prevents the business from operating.

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