15 Nov 2010

Trial of meat inspection system begins

3:03 pm on 15 November 2010

Controversial changes to the meat industry began on Monday with a six-month trial in which meat companies will undertake some of their own meat inspections.

The trial is at three plants, at which meat workers on the chain will carry out some of the checks on carcasses usually done by inspectors employed by the state-wwned enterprise AsureQuality.

AFFCO's Imlay plant at Whanganui is first off the block, while Silver Fern Farms' Pareora plant in South Canterbury will be starting a trial later in the month, followed by Alliance's Mataura Plant in Southland.

The union representing meat inspectors, the Public Service Association, fears the companies will cut corners in an attempt to drive down costs.

National secretary Richard Wagstaff says issues such as contamination by fecal matter or tapeworms will no longer be the responsibility of a third party to check.

But meat companies say they have a vested interest in ensuring the quality of their products remains high.

Meat Industry Association chief executive Tim Ritchie says there may be some cost savings in the new approach, but it won't compromise food safety because the companies will be assuming responsibility for matters where there is no food safety risk.

He says it will not lower standards because inspectors will still be checking the sheepmeat as it is processed.

The Food Safety Authority says no consumers will be put at risk and meat will continue to undergo food safety inspection by government-appointed inspectors.