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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
Life and Style
Fright night: the board game dates back to at least 1890
life
Life and Style
fashion
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

Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst- Insurance

Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst - Insurance ...

Recruitment Genius: Property Manager

£25000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This independent, growing Sales...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Multi-skilled graphic designer ...

Austen Lloyd: Court of Protection Solicitor

£30000 - £50000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: Court of Protection Solic...

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches