Government criticised over meat inspector shortage
With the UK currently facing a shortage of meat inspectors, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) has criticised the Government for ‘repeatedly ignoring the warning signs’ and has called for urgent action.
Eville & Jones, the company which supplies Official Veterinarians (OVs) for the Food Standards Agency (FSA) says it has reached “crisis point”, and is blaming Brexit uncertainty for losing 20 vets a month.
Reacting to the news, Tony Lewis, head of policy at CIEH, says the Government has been consistently warned about Brexit impacting negatively on staffing in a number of sectors, including food, where there is a high reliance on EU nationals fulfilling key roles.
Lewis believes this is also true for the meat sector where many Official Veterinarians are from the EU.
OVs audit and inspect meat processing sites, certify imports and exports, and carry out official disease control measures such as TB tests.
The shortage of OVs has reportedly cause significant implications for trade and animal welfare across the UK.
Lewis continues: ”We have been concerned for some time that the Government is simply not getting a grip on the key issues around Brexit and the UK’s food security, and this is simply another example of their lack of understanding.
“Our new report, Feeding Britain: Food Security after Brexit, raises all the key issues the Government urgently needs to be considering to maintain our food supply and protecting our food industry after Brexit. We sincerely hope that they will properly engage with it.”
The CIEH has said to be very happy to point the FSA towards the ‘untapped pool of environmental health professionals’ who, having previously held responsibility in this area, can step in and help address the current shortage of meat inspectors.
An FSA spokesperson said: “There is no evidence to suggest the decision to leave the EU has caused any significant shortages in the veterinary workforce in the UK. We continue to maintain a sufficient veterinary workforce to effectively deliver official controls to protect public health and animal welfare.
“Our most recent data from E&J shows staff levels as satisfactory. E&J has also advised us of a significant number of new recruits being introduced between July and September.
“As we prepare for EU Exit, we will continue to monitor the situation carefully.”