Consumers of meat could be at risk of food poisoning as a new report suggests a quarter of abattoirs are failing to meet basic standards of hygiene.
According to analysis of more than 300 government inspections across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, almost 27% of meat factories were in breach of Food Standards Agency (FSA) regulations.
The results suggest contaminated meat could be heading to butchers and supermarkets, exposing consumers to E.coli, salmonella or campylobacter, which can have serious consequences.
Serious health and safety failings
The Observer and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism analysed data from 323 FSA abattoir inspections in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. There were failings discovered at 86 of the locations.
These failings included carcasses being splashed with water that could potentially be contaminated with faecal matter.
There were also instances of meat touching dirty factory floors.
The whistleblower involved in the investigation also reported that contaminated meat was at risk of entering the food chain due to abattoir records being falsified.
However, the FSA says continually non-compliant offenders now risk having their licences revoked.
“Hygiene failures are not tolerated by the FSA, and robust enforcement action is taken in a risk-based and proportionate way,” a spokesman said.
“Ultimately if standards are not improving or the risk to public health is high enough, this could mean taking away a premises approval.”
Dangers of E.coli
E.coli O157 can cause severe food poisoning, and symptoms include bloody diarrhoea, stomach pain and in extreme cases kidney failure or even death.
More than 20 people in Scotland died on account of an E.coli outbreak in 1996. A young boy also died in Wales in 2005.
An expert who led a review into the two fatal E.coli outbreaks believes the FSA are being too lenient and is calling on the agency to “come down like a tonne of bricks” on offenders.
“This is basic hygiene. It’s not rocket science, it’s common sense,” Professor Hugh Pennington told The Observer.
“The FSA should be coming down on this like a tonne of bricks. It’s very disappointing this is going on.
“The main risk is E.coli O157, which my review looked into. The consequences can be catastrophic. People died.”
Source: The Guardian
Date Published: February 26, 2017
Author: Jonathan Brown