Letter: Nightmares of the meat trade

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The Independent Online
Sir: In view of the panic over BSE, what surprises me is that more people are not made unwell through the consumption of beef and its by-products.

A number of years ago I worked in various capacities for a meat packer who supplied a major retailer of frozen foods.

Working conditions could be charitably described as ghastly, but I recall the following incidents with particular affection:

1) A butcher chopped his finger off while cutting meat. The "slab" was wiped down with a damp cloth, while the missing digit was located amongst the joints and popped in a brown bag to accompany the butcher to the local hospital.

2) Mince was processed and packed in different sections of the factory; the only route from one to the other was along the public highway. A "dolly" containing six trays of mince, each weighing about 25lbs, toppled over in the road and was scraped up and packed immediately for distribution.

3) Overalls were changed on a weekly basis, but after one day were coated with grease and meat and smelt awful. The only exception was the day the managing director of our main customer visited the factory, when clean overalls were given out in the morning and had to be returned after the visit.

4) The "dollies" containing mince and minced meat for pet food were not labelled on one occasion and a guess made as to which was which.

5) Meat "on the turn" was routinely chosen for export to Germany on the basis that if it was off, we could blame the hauliers. If the meat had "turned", it was sponged with a detergent to disguise the smell.

Come to think of it, as there have been few BSE cases in Germany, perhaps the detergent is the antidote!

I M Davies Jones