Processed meat products made in Britain might not be fit to eat, according to a new report by the European Commission's food and veterinary inspectors.

The report, based on an inspection conducted in January, condemned the overall standards of the processed meat industry as giving "rise to serious concern." It blames on-site controllers for "weak or even non-existent" checks on the eligibility of raw materials with insufficient paperwork and questioned the reliability of schemes established to ensure traceability. "The lists of suppliers were in several cases found to be incomplete, not up to date, or to contain wrong information regarding approvals. The failure of controls over incoming raw materials in several premises visited indicated that the operation of fully effective traceability systems could not be guaranteed," the report concluded.

The EC team has also accused UK vets of signing export certificates for food products without enough knowledge about their origins: "In some cases, veterinary officers are signing export certificates without having the necessary personal knowledge or adequate official supporting documents for the certification," said the report.

According to the report, the EC team were particularly concerned by the huge variation of standards between smaller processing plants monitored by local authorities rather than the meat hygiene service of the food agency.

The report has come at a bad time for the meat industry, coinciding with an investigation by the Foods Standards Agency into alleged scams in which condemned poultry meat is sold for human consumption.

The Consumers' Association admitted that the report is "pretty damning, and the criticisms of health marking and traceability are particularly worrying."