News item

TSI calls for review of how food standards are maintained in the UK

HorseTrading standards officers across the country have stepped up to the challenge of fulfilling the urgent sampling and inspection requests from the Food Standards Agency.

Within a week of action nearly all requested sampling has been completed and testing results have begun to come through.

Andy Foster, from the Trading Standards Institute (TSI), said: “We are all waiting to hear what these test results are going to say as they will inform the full shape and size of this horse meat scandal.

“It is important to be aware however, that while we will start to see some results now, it is likely to be a couple of months until we have the full picture.

“As ever trading standards have done a fantastic job in responding to the crisis, prioritising the FSA sampling and testing requests so that consumers get the answers they need and deserve as quickly as possible.

 “Going forward TSI will want to see real review of how food standards are maintained in this country to be sure fraud and contamination issues are discovered as promptly as possible and that we are on the front foot if and when the next food related scandal hits us.

“Make no mistake that trading standards officers will always do their utmost to ensure they meet the expectations placed on them,  but better systems must be put in place to help local trading standards teams deal with times of crisis –  as budgets continue to be slashed the elastic won’t stretch any further, it will break.   Let’s not wait for that to happen.

"When this is all over, the food manufacturing sector will also have to look very hard at itself  - it must rise up to the challenge of restoring damaged consumer faith and trust and of making sure their testing regimes are upgraded.

"What is needed is a more ethical approach in the sector; simpler and more horizontal supply chains, competitive but fair prices to reduce suppliers’ motivation to cut corners, and a well resourced inspectorate.   It should not be about producing cheap food at any price, but about providing consumers with authentic and safe food at a reasonable price."

The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) and Trading Standards Institute (TSI), whose members are environmental health practitioners (EHPs) and trading standards officers (TSOs) working on the frontline of food safety have issued the following joint statements on matters surrounding the horse meat scandal:

• TSI and CIEH believe that even if it is proved criminality is behind the fraudulent adulteration of meat on the market, this does not relieve manufacturers and retailers of their legal duty and responsibility to produce and sell food that is safe and labelled accurately
• TSI and CIEH call upon the national and devolved Governments to make good resources lost through budgetary cuts in order that local authorities can investigate suspected wrong-doing through planned and ad hoc food sampling
• TSI and CIEH draw attention to the vital work of regulatory enforcement performed by environmental health practitioners (EHPs), port health inspectors (PHIs) and trading standards officers (TSOs) in protecting health while food is in preparation, on sale or in transit
• TSI and CIEH warn that the cuts in local government funding are having an increasingly damaging impact on the capability of local authorities to maintain sufficient competent, qualified health professionals ‘on the front line’ and and this should be reviewed as a matter of urgency
• TSI and CIEH invite a national debate on the plight of the poor and most vulnerable in our society who are especially at risk from the high salt, sugar and saturated fat content associated with many ‘budget’ processed foods

15 February 2013

Previous TSI statements on the horse meat scandal