The traditional British banger and the EU’s mash-up of food safety regulations
With the drop in the EU’s food safety rules, are their claims to protect us just porky pies?
© Brexit Facts4EU.Org 2020
Forget chlorinated chicken, new EU rules mean feeding us "abscesses, pus and TB material"
Every year around eight million pigs are slaughtered for meat in the UK. The UK also imports pork meat from other EU countries. Meat from pigs' heads is recovered by specialised boning plants and goes into pies, sausages and other processed foods. Millions of us consume this meat many times each year.
If the EU wants to portray itself as a responsible regulator of food safety standards, it might be thought that they would be strengthening food safety regulations in order to protect the public, not rowing back on them. Not so, according to the European Working Community for Food Inspection and Consumer Protection (EFWFC) which represents the EU's meat inspectors.
“Consumers are being exposed to an “avoidable risk” of disease after a reduction of official controls in food inspections of pig and poultry carcasses across the EU. Diseased meat is being eaten by consumers in the UK and EU, including pus from abscesses and tuberculosis lesions from pigs’ heads.”
- The European Working Community for Food Inspection and Consumer Protection (EFWFC), 15 Sept 2020
The EU has lowered its food safety requirements
The EU introduced new measures for checking pigs entering the food chain. This reduced the requirement for checking pig meat from a thorough inspection to a visual-only inspection, and this was warned about back in 2014.
A visual-only inspection misses underlying diseases. In the words of Ron Spellman, the Deputy Secretary of the European Working Community for Food Inspection and Consumer Protection (EFWFC) which represents EU meat inspectors:-
“Inspectors stopped cutting lymph nodes in pigs’ heads, which are known to contain abscesses and tuberculosis lesions. Under previous systems, the pigs’ head would have been rejected for food, but now the meat is minced to make sausages and meat pies, spreading the pus from the abscesses and TB material throughout these products.”“I don’t think you can prove it’s safe to feed people abscesses, pus and TB material.”
Mr Spellman is also a member of the UK's Association of Meat Inspectors, and he has been warning about the EU's lowering of food safety standards for many years. In June 2014 Mr Spellman told the BBC: "Last year we know that there were at least 37,000 pigs' heads with abscesses or tuberculosis lesions in lymph nodes in the head. They won't be cut now. There's no way to see those little abscesses, little tuberculosis lesions, without cutting those lymph nodes."
Mr Spelman also speculated on the reasons for the EU's reduction in its food safety requirements: “These changes are motivated not by science or a desire to protect the consumer but are politically motivated to give the meat industry what they want: the reductions and eventual removal of official independent meat inspection.”
The size of the problem
We looked at the Food Standards Agency's (FSA) report from January of this year. Here is what they said about 'foodborne diseases' - what most people would call 'food poisoning':-
“We estimate that there were 2.4 million cases of foodborne disease in the UK in 2018, with 222,000 GP presentations and 16,400 hospital admissions.”
- “Foodborne Disease Estimates for the United Kingdom in 2018”, FSA Report Jan 2020
By any measure this effect on public health from 'foodborne diseases' is highly significant.
So what does the EU Commission have to say about all of this?
The EU Commission's justification for the reduction in meat inspections is that the cutting up of pig carcasses as part of meat inspections increases the risk of harmful bacteria spreading onto meat.
A spokesperson for the European commission said: “The European Union retains some of the highest food safety standards in the world – this is a key priority. This is why the European Food Safety Authority provides expert scientific advice and recommendations while national authorities are responsible to carry out inspections in accordance with the official controls legislation.
“Any meat with lesions indicating an animal disease such as TB, or abscesses, or any pathological or organoleptic changes, must be considered as unfit for human consumption and not be placed on the market.”
The meat inspectors would doubtless agree with these worthy sentiments. However the problem as they see it is that the EU has reduced its safety requirements and ordered visual-only inspections of pigs. As Mr Spellman of the European Working Community for Food Inspection and Consumer Protection says: "There's no way to see those little abscesses, little tuberculosis lesions, without cutting those lymph nodes."
The EU constantly claims to be the originator of consumers' and workers' rights. British Remainers still to this day make these claims, despite all evidence to the contrary. (See our one-pager on this here.)
In the case of food safety standards above we have shown how yet again the EU claims one thing and does another.
"You are what you eat", as the saying goes. If that is the case then we are now worried about all the barbecued pork sausages we consumed over the summer. And we will never look at a pork pie in quite the same way again.
Help is at hand, and it's called Brexit
Under the disastrous Withdrawal Agreement and its Transition Period, the UK is still bound by the EU's rules on food safety. If we had wished to restore the previous rules where our meat inspectors could do more than a visual inspection of a pig which might be infected, we could not have done so.
From 01 January 2021, however, we can set our own rules. Currently most EU regulations are due to be reimposed as national laws by the UK Parliament, in order to ensure some continuity. We very much hope that most of these will be amended as quickly as possible to reflect the needs and wishes of the British people.
Some of the Facts4EU.Org team are rather partial to a traditional British banger, as well as the odd pork pie, and we look forward to the day when we can once again eat them with relish.
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[ Sources: European Working Community for Food Inspection and Consumer Protection | European Food Safety Authority | European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control | The Association of Meat Inspectors Trust | Food Standards Authority | DEFRA | European Commission | The Guardian | The BBC | Scientists for Britain ] Politicians and journalists can contact us for details, as ever.
Brexit Facts4EU.Org, Sat 03 Oct 2020
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