'Nothing matters more' than making sure food is safe amid rotten meat scandal, farming union says
"Nothing matters more" than making sure our food is safe, the National Farmers Union president has said after a criminal investigation was launched into a rogue meat supplier.
Minette Batters said that “lessons need to be learned” after supermarket chains learned this week of the two-year investigation which began as a probe into fraudulent labelling and is now looking into claims of “rotten” meat ending up on the shelves.
Supermarkets have admitted they cannot be sure that no suspect meat remains on sale and the Food Standards Agency has been accused of “failing to protect the public”.
It is understood the meat may have ended up in many UK supermarkets.
Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme, Ms Batters said: “It is absolutely deplorable. British consumers and British farmers need to know the whole system is honest and when something says that it is British that it genuinely is.”
She said the latest allegations were being investigated by the food crime unit which was set up following the horsemeat scandal in 2013.
Ms Batters also called for more resources for the Food Standards Agency when asked if she still had confidence in it.
She added: “We are going to have a lot more imports coming into this country.
“We are a very big marketplace with nearly 70 million people. Nothing matters more than making sure the food on our plate is safe so yes they will need investment and we will need to learn a lot of lessons from what has happened.”
'Rotting pork' kept with fresh meat
Farmers Weekly, which first reported the story said that the company was passing off industrial scale quantities of foreign pork as British.
An investigation carried out by the magazine alleged that alleged that “rotting” pork was mixed with fresh meat at the processing plant, and that frozen meat was sometimes thawed out on the factory floor.
It alleged that “criminal practices” had gone on for at least 20 years before they were exposed by whistleblowers.
The Food Standards Agency is not naming the business involved whilst it continues to gather evidence so as not to prejudice any possible future action by the courts.
Last week, three people were arrested at the firm’s factory during a raid by police and trading standards officers. The arrests were linked to alleged fraudulent labelling of foreign-sourced meats as British products.
Andrew Quinn, Deputy Head of the National Food Crime Unit, said: “The FSA’s National Food Crime Unit is carrying out a criminal investigation into how one supplier allegedly provided products labelled as British when they were in fact sourced from South America and Europe. The initial retailer was notified at the same time the NFCU acted against the food business suspected of the fraud.
“We are looking into all new lines of enquiry with our partner organisations, including any potential food hygiene breaches, and acting where necessary to protect public health.
“At a time when cost pressures and other challenges mean the risks of food fraud might be increasing, it is vital that everyone involved in the food chain works to ensure that food is safe and what it says it is.”