In a bid to improve food safety, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has announced that European member states have confirmed that inspections in pig slaughterhouses will be modernised.
The new inspections will focus on microbiological hazards, which have proven to be the main food safety risk from meat. The measures that will be taken, according to the FSA, include "strengthened salmonella controls in pig slaughterhouses, reduced trichinella testing where other controls are in place and reduced carcase handling to minimise cross-contamination".
Veterinary director at the FSA Liz Redmond said the changes were welcome and would be better for both business and consumers. She added, "With a greater focus on tackling the more harmful pathogens found on pork, consumers should have even more confidence in the safety of what they are buying. For food businesses this is a very positive step towards more risk-based and proportionate regulation in the future."
The current inspections were developed more than 100 years ago, but there have been divided opinions on the subject of a change.
Unison national officer Ben Priestly previously argued that the new standards would not be efficient enough. He said, "The FSA and the government should listen to advice from the people who actually carry out the inspections. It was 'light touch' regulation and the weakening of independent inspection that led to the horsemeat scandal across Europe and the lessons of that are now being ignored."
But the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) and the FSA disagreed with Unison, which is the biggest public sector union. FSA director of operations Andrew Rhodes told MeatInfo.co.uk last week that Priestley's allegations that tumours and abscesses would enter the food chain were "categorically untrue and scaremongering to suggest".
Meanwhile, director of the BMPA Stephen Rossides said, "The Commission's proposals to modernise official inspections of pigs are based on a European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) scientific opinion, and are a welcome step in the direction of a more appropriate and risk-based approach to meat inspection that addresses today's food hazards, and so improves consumer protection. We look forward to future proposals to modernise inspections of cattle and sheep."
But a current poll on the MeatInfo.co.uk website indicates that 50% of people think a change in pig inspection rules will dirty pork products, while 20% said it would not and 30% do not know.