A petition signed by more than 216,000 people to keep meat inspections independent, supported by the UK’s largest union, will be delivered to the FSA chief executive Emily Miles next week.
The Unison-backed petition on Change.org was set up three years ago by Steve and Norah Nash, who have been campaigning on food hygiene issues for over 20 years following the death of their six-year-old daughter, Joanna.
Joanna become ill after eating meat infected with E.coli O157 and developed the complication haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS). She died nine days later from multiple organ failure.
Steve Nash and Unison are concerned that the FSA plans to move to a self-regulatory system within meat hygiene inspection. They point to an FSA leaflet, outlining a proposed self-regulatory food hygiene and safety regime, with periodic risk assessment, tailored to small, medium and large businesses.
Nash said on the petition: “The FSA was set up in 2000 after Mad Cow Disease to control bad practices within the food industry and claim to ‘put the consumer first’. Whilst we appreciate they have excelled with regards to diet and nutrition, the same cannot be said for food-borne illnesses, mainly caused by contaminated meat.”
Unison previously campaigned to end a four-year recruitment freeze on meat inspectors. In October 2018 the FSA agreed to end the freeze and employ 36 permanent executive officer grade posts in field operations.
Unison will also launch a campaign next week around food regulation called ‘Protect our Food’.
The FSA has said that the leaflet Nash and Unison refer to is old and that the agency has not presented detailed plans on any proposed changes to the regulation of the meat sector and therefore no consultations have been held. The FSA said the most up-to-date information on Regulating Our Future is here.
An FSA spokesperson said: “The way the FSA currently regulates meat, dairy and wine already provides protection for consumers and inspectors have an important role in delivering this.
“However, as a modern and accountable regulator we also need to respond to future challenges such as new developments in technology and changes in consumer demand.
“This is essential to ensuring that food safety remains the priority and that people can continue to trust the food that they eat.”