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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Games Developer - HTML5

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With extensive experience and a...

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£26000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Product Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Due to on-going expansion, this leading provid...

Recruitment Genius: Shift Leaders - Front of House Staff - Full Time and Part Time

£6 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a family ...

Day In a Page

A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist?

Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

Are you a 50-center?

Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

Hollywood's new diet trends

Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
6 best recipe files

6 best recipe files

Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
Ashes 2015: Steven Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Middlesex bowler claims Ashes hat-trick of Clarke, Voges and Marsh
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Atwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works