Exclusive: Cuts in food safety checks mean that horsemeat scandal could happen again

Local authority budget cuts have led to fewer scientists checking food samples

The number of trained local scientists who check food safety in Britain has halved in a decade, increasing the chances that Britain will see a repeat of the horsemeat scandal, a leading scientist has warned.

Duncan Campbell, recent president of the Association of Public Analysts, said local authority cost cutting had badly damaged the network of laboratories where scientists test samples for trading standards departments.

The number of public analyst laboratories has fallen from 31 in 2000 to 17 now, while the number of analysts themselves is down 61 to 32, according to Dr Campbell.

At the same time, figures from the Unison trade union show that all inspections carried out by trading standards – including food - have fallen by 29 per cent, or 813, in the two years to 2010/11.

Mary Creagh, the Labour Shadow Environment Secretary suggested in the Commons yesterday that cuts to trading standards departments could have made the contamination of burgers "more widespread and less likely to be detected".

The Environment Minister, David Heath, told her: "It is very important neither you, nor anyone else, talks down the British food industry at a time when the standards in that industry are of a very high level.

"Because something has been discovered in Ireland, which is serious, which may lead to criminal proceedings, does not undermine the very serious efforts which are taken by retailers, by processors and by producers in this country, to ensure traceability and standards."

An estimated 10 million budget beefburgers have been taken off the shelves of supermarkets because of the discovery of traces of horse meat, from unknown sources.

Warning such scandals might become more common, Dr Campbell, the public analyst for 5 million people in Yorkshire, told The Independent: “Local authorities are having to make cuts to essential services and trading standards are well down the list [of priorities].

“In the long-term, the expertise and the capability of public analyst laboratories will be lost and problems like the one we have seen with horse meat in burgers will continue and possibly increase.”

He questioned the Food Standards Agency’s and Government’s assurances that the burgers did not pose a safety risk, saying the meat could have come from horses that were either diseased or treated with veterinary medicines harmful to humans.

The Food Standards Agency and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland deepened their investigations into the adulteration yesterday.

The company at the centre of the scandal, ABP Food Group, one of the biggest food processors in Europe, promised to adopt DNA testing for horse to prevent the problem occurring in future.

Two of its subsidiaries, Silvercrest Foods in Ireland and Dalepak Hambleton in Yorkshire, supplied beef burgers with traces of equine DNA to five supermarket chains, including one product classed as 29 per cent horse.

Traces of horse DNA were also found in beef products supplied by Liffey Foods.

As the Independent reported, companies in Spain or the Netherlands are thought to have supplied the meat.

Tummy trouble: Other food contamination scares

Sudan 1

600 processed foods were removed from the shelves in 2005 as they were contaminated with the illegal red food dye Sudan 1. The carcinogen was first discovered in Crosse & Blackwell Worcester sauce.

Salmonella in chocolate

In 2006, 56 people fell ill after eating Dairy Milk infected with salmonella. One pensioner died. Cadbury discovered a leaking waste-water pipe had infected a chocolate mix at its factory.

E.coli

The worst recorded outbreak of E.coli was reported in 1996 in Scotland. Twenty-one people died and more than 400 people were infected after eating contaminated meat supplied by a butcher’s shop in Wishaw, Lanarkshire.

Lanarkshire.

Beef in chicken

The Independent revealed in 2009 how Spanish and Dutch suppliers were bulking up chicken imported into the UK with cheaper protein from beef bones and gristle. The problem was only spotted with sophisticated tests.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy as ECB finally wield the axe
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
film
News
news... you won't believe how bad their skills were
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas