Mr Gummer gave the House of Commons Select Committee on Agriculture two examples of the worst offenders.
In one slaughterhouse, inspectors found the floor was heavily soiled with blood and guts and a car cleaning brush contaminated with blood and fat was used to wash carcases. Knives and utensils were not sterilised but washed in a tub of static water which was an ideal breeding ground for bacteria, Mr Gummer said. Birds, flies and vermin could enter through broken windows.
In another abattoir, equipment, surfaces and a partition wall were thick with congealed blood, dust and dirt. Flies could enter through open windows that lacked appropriate screens.
Both were 'no longer operating in an unsafe condition', Mr Gummer emphasised, but added that there was 'a real problem with our slaughterhouses'. He said: 'This is not satisfactory and I can't have a situation where the public health is in danger.'
There are about 600 slaughterhouses producing meat solely for the United Kingdom market and about 70 per cent are failing to comply with hygiene requirements, which will become tougher when an EC directive comes into force on 1 January 1993.
Mr Gummer told the select committee that the problems of the slaughterhouses became apparent after the emergence of 'mad cow' disease, BSE. 'The truth is I discovered much of this when I faced the BSE issue.'
Latest figures on cattle affected by BSE show that all 72,000 cases were of animals that had eaten feed believed to have been contaminated with the infective agent. 'We have no cases of maternal transmission,' he said.