Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Jungle in the UK

Our blog previously posted on the health risks of the American meat industry here. In the UK Inspection figures from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) reveal there were on average 16 major plant safety infractions every week between 2014-2017, according to a data analysis conducted this week by the Guardian and Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

Almost two thirds of audited meat cutting factories (540 out of 890) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland had at least one instance of major non-compliance with hygiene or food safety regulations. Several plants had multiple failures, with 25 breaches occurring at plants belonging to Russell Hume, the meat supplier at the centre of recent concerns about UK food hygieneAmong the overall number of failings identified by FSA auditors in the period analysed, there were 221 major non-compliances relating to maintaining legal temperature controls, and in excess of 300 relating to minimising the risk of cross-contamination. In addition, more than 50 major breaches were discovered relating to ensuring that animal byproducts are correctly identified, and 26 connected to traceability.

A major non-compliance is, by the FSA’s definition, “likely to compromise public health, including food safety ... or may lead to the production and handling of unsafe or unsuitable food if no remedial action is taken”

The findings “raise serious questions as to how robust the FSA’s system for monitoring food hygiene really is”, said Kerry McCarthy MP, who served as shadow secretary of state for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs until 2016.
“These figures are truly shocking,” Kath Dalmeny, CEO of campaign group Sustain, told the Guardian. “That is why I find it so dismaying that over the last decade our government has slashed the budgets for the bodies who police our food system – our local authority meat hygiene services, independent public analyst laboratories and trading standards inspectors. They doggedly insist on pursuing the flawed notion that light-touch regulation is good enough for the meat industry.” 
There is growing anxiety that the problems in the industry may be wider than initially thought. Four different companies have now withdrawn meat, and the FSA has also set up a national review of meat processing plants. 

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