Food safety requires independent regulator says meat inspectors union

Date: Thu 23 May 2013

UNISON warned today that the new Scottish version of the Food Standards Agency must have the powers and resources to safeguard the public and stand up to the food industry.

The union representing Scottish meat inspectors stressed that lessons must be learned from the recent horsemeat scandal to protect consumers from contaminated meat and unscrupulous business practices.

Dave Watson, Head of Bargaining and Campaigns, called on the Scottish Government to take the opportunity in establishing the new body to ensure its independence and end the dominance of the food industry in lobbying for lighter regulation.

He criticised some of the policies and changes that had brought this about, including the transfer in 2006 of responsibility for ensuring only clean livestock are slaughtered,  from the state controlled Meat Hygiene Service to the slaughterhouse Food Business Operators.

This and current proposed changes such as introducing visual inspections instead of cutting animals open to check for sickness or diseases are dangerous steps that Scotland can correct.

Dave said: “We want to ensure that robust independent regulation is established and enforced across Scotland.

“Any failures in slaughterhouses force the rest of the food industry to work with unsafe meat products that could potentially result in tragic circumstances.

“The horsemeat scandal showed conclusively that strong regulation of the industry is necessary as, left to their own devices, rogue elements have readily put commercial gain above public safety.”

UNISON’s submission to the Scottish Government consultation on the new food body also warned the Scottish Government against moving environmental health, public health and preventative health services into the new body.

And the union called for proper resourcing for the new body and for local authority environmental health departments which have been hit hard by cuts.

Dave said: “Adequate staffing levels are essential to ensure that key recommendations from previous FSA and Pennington reports, such as the Clean Livestock Policy are delivered. No-one wants to see repeats of the Wishaw E Coli outbreak.

“We believe the general public want strong regulation, putting safety above commercial interests. This is also good for the industry.

“Scottish Meat is a highly regarded brand across the world. The way to keep it that way is to have high quality standards of inspection.”



For information please contact:
Dave Watson, Head of Bargaining and Campaigns, 07958 122 409
Fiona Montgomery, Communications Officer, 0141 342 2877 or 07508 877 000

Notes to editors:

1. UNISON is Scotland’s largest trade union representing 160,000 members working in the public sector in Scotland, including meat inspectors working for the Food Standards Agency and environmental health officers in local authorities.

2. Our consultation response “Healthier Scotland: A Consultation on Creating a new Food Body” is online at

3. Our Briefing ‘Cuts in Food safety and Environmental Health’ is online