Pig farmers and abattoir workers are invited to comment on the Food Standards Agency’s proposed changes to pigmeat inspection now the public consultation period is open.

Key changes to the rules aim to better protect public health as follows:

• Officials will no longer touch or cut into pig carcasses or their offal on routine inspections, as handling can spread harmful bacteria

• If visual inspection identifies potential concerns, further hands-on investigation will be carried out

• Abattoirs processing more than 37,500 pigs a year will only be allowed three salmonella-positive samples in any 10-week period or 50 samples tested

• The Food Business Operator will be responsible for drawing up an action plan where repeated breaches of three positive samples are seen

• All sows and boars or 10% of pigs from controlled housing conditions will be tested for trichinella

• All pigs from uncontrolled housing conditions (for example, organic and free-range) will be tested for trichinella

• Breeding sows and boars from areas in England, Wales and Northern Ireland subject to annual TB testing will continue to have their lymph nodes examined

See also : Latest results from a study of disease in pigs at slaughter in 2013

Steve Wearne, director of policy at the FSA, said: “The current system needs modernising. Our meat hygiene controls were developed more than a century ago to tackle the health concerns of the day. A modernised inspection system will protect consumers better and be more proportionate to slaughterhouses that control risks effectively.

“We want to ensure the new controls are proportionate and take into account the views of producers and consumers of pork. We look forward to hearing all of the views that come out of this consultation.”

Gary Going, technical manager at Cheale Meats, said: “I can understand the reasons behind the changes, but we do cull sows that sometimes have more issues at the end of their lives. There’s a good chance something will be seen and cutting will be necessary, so it won’t make a lot of difference to us.”

The Scottish consultation closes on 28 April and the England, Wales and Northern Ireland deadline for comment is 6 May. The new rules are scheduled to come into force in June 2014 across the EU.