5 Apr 2011

Meat inspection trial continues

1:40 pm on 5 April 2011

The Ministry of Agriculture says there will be further consultation with overseas markets and meat industry and union representatives before any changes to meat inspection procedures are introduced.

In the meantime, it says, a trial that was begun last year by Food Safety Authority at AFFCO's Imlay plant at Whanganui is continuing.

It involves company staff carrying out some of the non-health related quality checks on sheep and lamb carcasses currently done by meat inspectors employed by the state-owned enterprise, AsureQuality.

Trials were initially planned for two other plants as well but MAF deputy director of standards Carol Barnao says in the end it decided that wasn't necessary.

The meat industry, keen to trim back meat inspection costs by having company employees doing some of the work, is supporting the trial.

But the union representing the 850 meat inspectors, the Public Service Association, is concerned about job losses and jeopardising the meat export trade by lowering the standards of meat inspection.

Carol Barnao says there will be no compromise on food safety and the proposal they're looking at is in line with international trends.

She says Australia is considering going even further, by having processing companies becoming responsible for all meat inspection in beef plants.