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Unison, which represents meat-hygiene inspectors, has welcomed the Food Standards Agency Bill and called on the gov...
Unison, which represents meat-hygiene inspectors, has welcomed the Food Standards Agency Bill and called on the government to ensure that one of the first priorities of the agency must be to improve hygiene standards in abbatoirs.

An independent FSA, says the union, should give backing to a centralised meat-hygiene service whose sole purpose is the enforcement of a strong system of supervision and inspection. Unison national officer Ben Priestley said:

'At last we will have an agency which will put the interests of the meat-eating public ahead of the interests of the industry. We want to make sure that food is safe for people to eat, and to restore public confidence in the industry.'

To be effective, Unison believes that the new agency will have to tacke the following problems:

- the meat-hygiene service was created to serve the meat industry above the consumer

- the influence of the industry continues to be a considerable factor in holding back hygiene initiatives

- the deregulation of poultry meat inspection should be reversed

- the role of contracted veterinary staff in policing hygiene standards needs to be reviewed

- the Fresh Meat Hygiene Regulations should be amended to make it an offence for a plant operator to present a faecally contaminated carcass for inspection

- the MHS operations manual should be revised to bring it in line with the government's stated line on effective enforcement

- there should be more permanent, professional inspection staff rather than the large cohort of insecure temporary inspection staff currently employed by the MHS. The role of meat hygiene inspectors should be developed via training and professional development

- company-based HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) schemes are a welcome development, but they should not become a replacement for independent inspection. This would be deregulation by another name

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