HEALTH leaders have called for more testing in the food chain, in the wake of the horsemeat burger scandal.
The Royal Environmental Health Institute of Scotland (Rehis) has called for an increase in food sampling and tests to protect consumers.
The call came as farming leaders called for immediate action by UK supermarkets to improve their sourcing and labelling of food.
After burgers sold by Tesco, Aldi, Lidl and Iceland were discovered by authorities in Ireland to have contained horsemeat, the National Farmers Union (NFU) warned that consumer confidence in the UK food industry had been “severely undermined”.
George Fairgrieve, Rehis adviser on food safety and food standards, said: “The public has a right to know what they are eating and where it has come from, and the latest report from Ireland highlights the importance of a realistic sampling regime to ensure the protection of the food chain and consumer protection.
“At the moment, sampling of foods is routinely carried out across Scotland as part of a range of public health measures delivered by the Environmental Health Service within each local authority. However, Rehis, along with partner agencies, is concerned that budget constraints within local authorities will have a detrimental impact on the level of sampling carried out.”
Mr Fairgrieve added: “Another worrying impact from a potential reduction in the number of inspections being carried out is that there is an opportunity for fraudulent activities to increase, i.e. untraceable meat being purchased and added to the food chain.”
NFU president Peter Kendall said that the integrity of UK- produced meat was being compromised by the use of cheaper imports that did not meet the same stringent monitoring criteria.
He said retailers must take immediate action to address the integrity of their suppliers and ensure that UK products are easily distinguishable and clearly labelled, so customers can make a conscious decision about the food they buy.
The farming body’s comments came after Tesco took out full-page adverts in a number of newspapers, apologising for selling beefburgers containing horse meat. Aldi, Lidl and Iceland also withdrew burgers from sale after they were found to contain horsemeat.
Sainsbury’s, Asda and the Co-op later withdrew some frozen products but stressed that the move was “purely precautionary” and they had not been found to be selling contaminated food.
Ten-million burgers have been taken off supermarket shelves across Ireland and the UK as a result of the scandal.