Food Bill must prioritise food safety

Date: Wed 1 October 2014

UNISON, the union who represent meat hygiene inspectors and environmental health officers, is calling on MSPs debating the Food (Scotland) Bill tomorrow (Thursday 2 Oct) to make the interests of consumers paramount in the objectives of the new regulatory body Food Standards Scotland.

The union is highlighting recent food scandals to make the case against deregulation. More than 60% of chickens in the UK are now infected with the campylobacter food poisoning bug, which on average kills 110 people each year and results in 22,000 people being treated in hospital. Despite this, the current UK regulators are scrapping independent inspection in poultry plants, allowing companies to appoint their own inspectors.

And it’s not just the UK regulators. The Scottish Government recently promulgated regulations that allow the visual only inspection of pigs in abbatoirs. This means tumours and abscesses will be minced into the sausages and pies we eat.

Dave Watson, UNISON’s head of bargaining and campaigns, said that; “Meat inspectors and vets must be able to carry out thorough independent inspections, free from food industry influence. Councils must also be properly funded so that food outlets are regularly inspected.”

“Since April 2012 meat inspectors and vets have prevented over a million instances of diseased animal carcasses from entering the food chain in Scotland. MSP’s are urged to recognise that simply creating a Scottish body to regulate food safety is not enough. They must legislate for higher standards to ensure the objectives set out in the Bill are achieved.”

UNISON believes the primary concern of Food Standards Scotland must be to protect consumers not increase food industry profits. This will also protect the high quality Scottish food brand which is so important for Scottish jobs.


Notes to editor

1. UNISON is Scotland’s largest trade union. We represent the operational workforce of the Food Standards Agency – predominately meat inspectors and vets working in abattoirs and meat plants. We also represent Environmental Health Officers who inspect food premises and undertake food sampling.

2. UNISON’s debate briefing for MSPs can be read here

3. Our written submission to the Health Committee can be read here

4. UNISON Scotland investigated the impact of cuts on local authority environmental health departments and at the Food Standards Agency. Two surveys of UNISON members confirmed our warnings that cuts are putting public health at risk. Full briefing can be read here.



For further information please contact

  • Dave Watson, UNISON’s head of bargaining and campaigns, 0141 342 2840 or 07958122409