Two new food safety stories highlight, yet again, the importance of strong regulation in the interests of consumers, not profits.
You might have thought lessons would be learned from the horsemeat scandal. You would be wrong. Results of an initial round of DNA testing carried out in butchers’ shops across Ireland has shown that many products labelled Irish do not come from Ireland. The Irish Farmers Association introduced the DNA certified pig meat traceability programme to identify imported pig meat and stop consumers being misled about the origin of pig meat products. An initial survey of butchers shows that over half the products sampled are not Irish.
The UK inquiry into the horsemeat scandal by Chris Elliott, professor of food safety at Queen's University Belfast, was announced by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 16 months ago and was to have been completed by the spring. It is expected to highlight the impact of spending cuts on frontline enforcement and inspection in the food industry, as UNISON has highlighted.
However, The Guardian has discovered that its publication has been blocked amid government concerns that the public would be frightened by the idea that criminals were still able to interfere with their food. They report that he delivered his final conclusions to the government several weeks ago. Publication was scheduled for 22 July, sources say, but the new environment secretary, Liz Truss, blocked it after the cabinet reshuffle.
Tim Lang, professor of food policy at City University, London, said it was scandalous that the horsemeat report had not been published. Taken together with the recent FSA board decision to keep the names of supermarkets and meat processors secret, it marks a sad return to the old style of government that puts food industry ahead of protecting consumers."
These disclosures again emphasise the importance of strong regulation in Scotland, through the Food (Scotland) Bill. It is hardly surprising that the demoralised workforce has also voted to take strike action after a pay offer that is below even the government's miserly pay policy. Consumers and staff deserve better than this.