Hanging meat

UK public wants stricter rules on meat quality, poll shows

Unison research highlights concerns over relaxing standards to get US trade deal.
05 March 2020 , Katie Coyne

The majority of the public (81%) is concerned about the UK relaxing food standards – such as allowing the importing of chlorinated chicken – to get a trade deal with the US, according to a survey in January. 

Carried out by market researchers Savanta ComRes on behalf of the Unison union, more than 2,015 people took part in the meat safety survey.

Some 52% wanted new stricter rules on checks around meat quality standards following the UK leaving the EU, 34% said existing rules should be maintained, and just 3% said they should be relaxed.

An even greater majority of the public (85%) wanted mandatory, independent meat safety and slaughterhouse inspections. Unison has been campaigning on this issue, recently handing in a petition to the FSA in support of independent meat inspection.

The poll also indicated overwhelming support for maintaining council-led inspections of restaurants and takeaways.

“Cosying up to the US president shouldn’t mean dropping standards by accepting meat with poor hygiene, which has been given a blast of bleach or acid to gloss over its murky past,” said Unison general secretary Dave Prentis.

“Consumers care how their food is prepared, that’s why they want independent checks. They’ll have no faith if the industry is virtually left to look after itself. 

“Cost-cutting mustn’t be at the expense of public safety. The best way to ensure what we consume is fit for purpose is to have independent inspections. We shouldn’t be putting checks in the hands of the meat producers themselves.

“The government must fund proper inspections rather than put lives at risk or undermine trust in food safety. Brexit should mean the UK’s current high standards are maintained or improved – not the introduction of bargain-basement, third-rate standards.”

Other findings in the Unison poll:

  • 65% thought independent, government inspections are the best way to ensure meat is safe and disease-free.
  • 9% thought inspections by private firms were sufficient, while 8% believe slaughterhouses should be able to regulate themselves.
  • 52% said they would be less confident about the quality of meat in the UK if private firms inspected abattoirs.
  • 64% said they’d have less confidence if slaughterhouses monitored their own production processes.
  • 53% said private (as opposed to council) inspections of restaurants and takeaways would make them less confident about food safety. Just 17% said it would make them more confident.
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