How UK food standards are already falling to accommodate American trade deal
By TruePublica: The question is a valid one given the impending trade deal that the current government is likely to strike with America. So, how will food standards fall to accommodate a trade deal where standards in the USA are much lower? The good news if you happen to be in favour is that the Conservative government have been working on this for a few years now – through austerity. Analysis now shows that as a direct result of government cuts to the agencies responsible for the food chain in Britain, there is already a dramatic decline in standards. This decline is associated not with standards but with enforcement but the result in meat products, for instance, is a 50% increase of reported cases of dodgy food entering the food chain.
In our report last November entitled – Appalling US food standards will add £1billion to NHS to combat serious food poisoning – we highlighted that:
“A US-UK trade deal which will inevitably increase imports of American food could see the NHS forced to find huge sums additional money dealing with food poisoning, according to farming alliance Sustain. Reported in the Farmers Guardian was that Sustain had examined the food safety records of the USA and found substantially higher rates of sickness and death from foodborne illnesses than those in the UK (see figures below). Using Food Standards Agency (FSA) estimates of the current costs of campylobacter infections, Sustain estimated the UK economy would face a bill of at least £1 billion if US patterns of food poisoning occurred in the UK.”
In that report we also highlighted what was acceptable in US food standards, that was not currently in the UK such as a certain quantity of; maggots, rat fur, parasites, mould, cigarette butts, animal and insect faeces, sand, grit and more.
Unchecked is a new campaign which investigates the UK’s shrinking enforcement capacity and exposes the real-world costs of the failure to properly enforce the rules. When it comes to food the responsibility for ensuring that food standards are maintained this is shared between the Food Standards Agency, Food Standards Scotland and Local Authorities. Environmental Health and Trading Standards Officers carry out checks on food premises, and sample food to make sure it is safe and authentic. Local Authorities carry out farm animal health and welfare checks.
Here is what they have found from analysing data 2010 to 2017:
- The Food Standards Agency’s total funding has fallen by 47%
- Food Standards Agency staff numbers in England and Wales fell by 28%
- Food Standards Agency meat hygiene inspectors in England and Wales fell by 41% Local authorities
- Total net spend by Local Authorities on trading standards services in England fell by 51%
- Total Local Authority Trading Standards staff numbers in the UK fell by 56%
- Local Authority Environmental Health Officers in England and Wales fell by a third
- The total number of Local Authority food law enforcement staff in the UK fell by 27%
- The number of Local Authority staff working on food standards in the UK fell by half
- From 2011/12 to 2014/15 Local Authority animal health & welfare resources fell by 45%
All those cuts meant that in:
- Food Standards Agency meat inspections in the UK 3 fell by 32%
- From 2011/12 to 2016/17, Food Standards Agency spend in England and Wales on meat hygiene controls fell by 24%
- Spending by Local Authorities in England on food safety fell by 37%
- Local Authority prosecutions of UK food businesses (hygiene & standards) fell by 16%
- The number of Local Authority improvement notices served in the UK fell by over 50%
- Suspension/revocation of approval or licence by Local Authorities in the UK for hygiene breaches fell by 42%
- Food product sampling and testing by Local Authorities in the UK fell by 44%
- The number of laboratories which carry out food testing fell from 21 to 12
- From 2014/15 to 2016/7 National Trading Standards inspections of feed businesses fell by 9.5%
- Since 2014/15 Local Authority farm welfare visits in England and Wales have fallen by 23%
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The outcome for just one category of foodstuffs – that of meat supplies in the food chain; reported cases of compromised safety or integrity of meat products have risen 50% in the last six years – an increase of nearly 8.5% each and every year.
Our report back in November shows how this could manifest itself through the general food supply if American standards were applied.
- 14.7 per cent of the US population suffers from a foodborne illness every year, compared to 1.5 per cent in the UK.
- 3,000 people a year die in America from foodborne illness, a 20 per cent increase to current UK deaths.
- About 380 of those annual deaths in America are attributed to salmonella poisoning, but in England and Wales, no deaths were recorded from salmonella between 2005 and 2015.
- Campylobacter, a pathogen found mainly in chicken, has an infection rate of 6,289 per 100k of the population in the US, with the frequency of outbreak on the rise. In England and Wales, the rate was just 96.22 per 100k population – this is a 65 fold increase against current UK standards.
- An average of 1,591 cases of listeriosis, usually caught from eating soft cheeses, unpasteurised milk and chilled ready-to-eat foods such as pate, are reported in the US every year. In England and Wales, the average is just 177 (adjusted for population – this represents an increase of over 75%)
Kath Dalmeny, chief executive of Sustain – the alliance for better food and farming said: “Our analysis shows that if we accept imported meat without robust food standards, we may also import increased food poisoning and possibly even deaths. The US is demanding we drop our food standards for trade, but our research shows cheap US meat will come at a cost to our health and economy.”
Download the full UNCHECKED report HERE in pdf