HC Deb 07 December 1971 vol 827 cc1112-3
18. Mr. Blenkinsop

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will make a statement about meat inspection in this country, in view of the advice given by the British Veterinary Association, details of which are in his possession, that foreign meat is safer than home-killed meat.

Mr. Anthony Stodart

I do not accept the Association's view on this. All home-produced red meat in this country has to be examined by properly trained officers of the local authority and I am satisfied that the standards are entirely sufficient to safeguard public health.

Mr. Blenkinsop

While I welcome very much the Minister's statement, may I ask him to confirm that our standards as carried out by the health inspectors are at least as good as if not better than those on the Continent?

Mr. Stodart

Yes, that is our view.

Mr. Peter Mills

While I agree with what my hon. Friend said, is he aware that only 60 out of the 2,000 slaughterhouses in this country are licensed for the export of meat to the E.E.C.? Would he further agree that there is a long way to go to bring our slaughterhouses up to standard?

Mr. Stodart

With great respect to my hon. Friend, the majority of the failings of slaughterhouses in this country are on details and not on substance. One frequent reason for failing to conform to E.E.C. standards is something such as the separation of pig slaughter lines from others. It is not a question of hygiene.

Mr. Conlan

Will the hon. Gentleman recognise that the assertions of the B.V.A. are part of a long campaign to take over the meat-inspecting functions of the country? Will he also admit that these assertions have done a great deal of harm in damaging the confidence of the general public in the existing service?

Mr. Stodart

I should like to reaffirm with great emphasis that I believe that the job done by the public health inspectorate is absolutely first class. Members of the inspectorate have to pass examinations set by the Royal Society of Health, and we are entirely satisfied with them. I hope that the general public will be reassured by this.