Wide-ranging package to tackle illegal trade in unfit meat

A  package  of  measures  to tighten the laws preventing unfit poultry meat entering  the  human  food chain were announced today by the Food Standards Agency.  The  action  plan is to be considered by the Food Standards Agency Board at an open meeting in Belfast on Wednesday 19th September.

The action follows several recent investigations into the illegal diversion of  unfit  poultry  meat into the food chain. In December 2000 seven people were convicted at Hull crown Court of conspiracy to defraud by selling meat for  human  consumption when it was destined for petfood. The case involved more  than  1,000  tonnes  of  poultry  by-products. In March 2001, a joint investigation  by  Amber  Valley Council, the police and the FSA led to the seizure of 20 tonnes of unfit poultry meat.

The 7 point plan proposes:

  • introducing a requirement to stain 'high risk' unfit poultry meat - bringing it into line with requirements for red meat;
  • extending staining to cover licensed cold stores and cutting plants;
  • a commitment to improve traceability and quality assurance within supply chains in the catering sector, particularly in hospitals and schools;
  • working with the meat industry to develop a Code of Practice on the handling and disposal of animal by-products and independent auditing of their activities; and
  • considering what controls are necessary on food brokers who trade in food but may not know the source of the products they are trading in.

In  addition,  the Agency is proposing to set up a Waste Food Task Force to examine  what further measures may be needed to control the annual disposal of  754,000  tonnes  of  poultry waste. In particular, the Task Force would examine the role of food brokers dealing in poultry meat.

Agency Chairman Sir John Krebs said:

"It has become apparent since the recent case in Rotherham, and subsequent investigation  in  Amber  Valley,  that current controls are not adequately protecting  consumers  from unfit meat entering the human food chain. There are  already  strict  controls in place, but these need to be tightened and loopholes need to be closed.

"In  addition to changes in the law we want to work with industry on ways to  improve  traceability  throughout  the  food  chain. The FSA Board will consider   these  proposals  very  carefully to ensure that the consumer is protected as far as possible from this illegal trade."

The  consultation  which  led  to  this  action plan considered a number of options  -  staining high risk poultry by-products; staining both high risk and low risk poultry by-products.

Notes to Editors

  1. The consultation was carried out between 28th April 2001 and 8 June 2001.
  2. The Animal By-Products Order 1999, made under the Animal Health Act 1981, lays down rules in Great Britain for the disposal and processing of animal by-products.
  3. The Order categorises animal by-products into 'high-risk' material which is not fit for human consumption, such as birds that are dead on arrival, those killed for disease control reasons or those that have not passed post-mortem inspection.
  4. Low-risk material is considered to be all other by-products outside the 'high-risk' category which are rejected mainly on quality grounds.