Unison Survey of Meat Inspectors UK

23/04/2011

Eight in ten carcasses are contaminated in some abattoirs*, according to a UNISON survey of meat inspectors. The report reveals the shocking risks to public health because of understaffing and lack of management support for meat inspectors in plants.

Nearly 2/3 of inspectors say they have experienced bullying by abattoir bosses and nearly half knew colleagues who had left their jobs because of it. 97% of inspectors also warn that the meat industry cannot be trusted to carry out meat inspection itself - despite a push for this by the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

Dave Prentis, UNISON’s General Secretary, said:
“Families need to know their Sunday roasts are safe to eat this Easter.

“Too many abattoir bosses are putting fast production before people safety. Inspectors need to be given adequate time to check carcasses for contamination, but some bullying managers are making their jobs harder.

“We need to beef up powers for independent meat safety inspectors and stop attempts by management to silence their complaints.

“Meat inspectors should be given the backing to raise standards across the industry. The Food Standards Agency must work as a strong, independent inspectorate protecting the public, not abattoir bosses. This report should be the wake up call the industry needs to get meat safety right.”

Survey results:

Meat Safety

  • *27% of inspectors said that more than 8 out of 10 carcasses presented to them were contaminated, in plants without “trimmers” specially employed to cut off contamination.
  • Even in plants with “trimmers”, 19% of inspectors reported that more than 6 in 10 carcasses were contaminated.
  • Only 9% of inspectors said FSA management always supported them in their enforcement work.
  • 42% said that the FSA never encouraged them to report breaches of legislation with a view to enforcement proceedings.
  • 55% said that they were “not at all” confident that the FSA would properly follow up a report about a breach of the regulations, which seriously compromised consumer protection.
  • 93% said the FSA was not truly independent of the industry.
  • 97% said the meat industry itself could not be trusted to carry out meat inspection itself on behalf of the consumer, despite the FSA encouraging plants to take over inspection duties themselves.

Bullying · Three-quarters of inspectors have witnessed bullying in the last two years.

  • Nearly two-thirds (64%) of inspectors have been bullied in the last two years.
  • Nearly half (45%) of inspectors have a colleague who has left due to bullying.
  • 58% say the bullying happens weekly or more frequently.
  • The biggest form of bulling was threats.
  • 45% said they knew staff who had left their jobs because of bullying.
  • 42% said there were insufficient staff numbers in their plant to effectively carry out inspection (up from 31% in 2008).