17 July 2000
BSE controls must stay, says union

By Alistair Driver

THE union representing meat hygiene inspectors has urged the Food Standards Agency not to bow to pressure from farmers and relax BSE controls.

The National Beef Association has called for a relaxation of rules banning older cattle from entering the food chain under the Over Thirty Months Scheme.

But the public services union Unison said the cluster of cases of new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease in Leicestershire meant BSE controls should stay.

Food agency officials reviewing Britains BSE controls will hold a public meeting of stakeholders which will discuss the issues on Tuesday (18 July).

On the agenda will be the Over Thirty Month Scheme, specified risk material controls and the ban on feeding farm animals meat and bonemeal.

The agencys remit is to “consider both the adequacy of the measures to protect public health and their proportionality to the assessed risk.”

But Unison claims this points to BSE control measures being reduced or removed – a move the union believes would be bad news for consumers.

Ben Priestly, Unison national officer, said: “We cant allow the FSA to bow to pressure from the meat industry to drive down costs by skimping on inspection.”

Unison and its members in the Meat Hygiene Service had built up a wealth of experience about BSE which it is keen to share with the agency, he added.

However, requests for meetings with the food agency had so far been “met with a wall of silence,” claimed Mr Priestly.