The Public Service Association (PSA) says the economic fallout from the Fonterra milk contamination could be repeated in the meat industry if companies continue to have the power to inspect their own meat.
The New Zealand based company Fonterra, the world’s biggest milk exporter, is currently involved in a big scandal because milk products had to be recalled due to a bacteria contamination scare, which could possibly lead to botulismus.
Last year the government gave the go-ahead to a number of meat companies to carry out their own in-house meat inspections rather than using trained, specialist and independent government meat inspectors employed by AsureQuality.
PSA National Secretary Richard Wagstaff says it’s an experiment which opens up New Zealand’s meat export industry to a huge amount of risk.
“What is happening with Fonterra milk products shows just how costly a contamination problem can be to New Zealand’s export trade and to the economy as a whole. Contamination in one area of Fonterra’s production supply chain has cast a shadow over all other New Zealand dairy products and is putting the reputation of New Zealand’s entire dairy industry under threat. The same thing could happen in our billion dollar meat export industry if just one company is caught out not conducting proper inspections or if contaminated product got through,” he says.
At the moment in-house meat inspection is happening in about five plants but Auckland Farmers Freezing Company (AFFCO) has indicated it may soon move all its plants to company inspection.
Richard Wagstaff says “there’s an inherent conflict of interest in companies inspecting their own meat which will encourage short-cuts and see commercial interests overriding robust standards of food safety and quality control. The risks are huge and the PSA and meat inspectors have been repeatedly trying to raise concerns.”
In the interests of food safety, market confidence and economic strength, the PSA urges the government to reinstate a meat inspection regime across all meat companies which is regulated by independent government meat inspectors, according to Wagstaff.