‘Risks posed’ by food standards shake-up, says Mary Creagh

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Shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh yesterday condemned the UK government for breaking up the food standards regime, in the wake of the horsemeat scandal.

She said every time processed meat moved there was a “moment of risk” of potential illicit contamination.

The Opposition Day debate in the Commons came as more cases emerged of horse meat being missold in processed food sold by British retailers.

Ms Creagh said the situation risked making things difficult for domestic suppliers and food producers because of continued uncertainty. She said: “We certainly need to make sure what is coming in is exactly as it says on the label.

“There is an issue with large quantities of horsemeat coming in from countries such as Canada and Mexico …tonnes and tonnes of this meat coming in where there is no traceability and no guarantee about what these horses have had injected.

“Our regulatory services protect both consumers and our food industry and allow it to export all over the world. Their job has been made so much more difficult by the government’s decision to fragment the Food Standards Agency’s responsibilities.

“We all want the British public to have confidence the food they are buying is correctly labelled, legal and safe.

“It is not good enough to say, ‘we don’t know what is in your food but whatever it is, we guarantee it is safe to eat’. The British people deserve so much better than that.”

Ms Creagh urged Environment Secretary Owen Paterson to make clear if and how many of the millions of withdrawn burgers would be tested for horse meat.

She called for a tightening up of microchipping and passporting of horses slaughtered for food production in the UK, repeating statistics which showed 6 per cent of horses killed in Britain later tested positive for the drug bute, which is not cleared for human consumption.

Mr Paterson said: “The Food Standards Agency has been quite clear giving advice to all those who supply to public institutions – schools, prisons, hospitals – and it is the suppliers who have the ultimate responsibility for the quality of what they sell.”

Ms Creagh also attacked the testing regime announced by Defra. She said: “You cannot seriously expect people to wait ten weeks for the results. Do you think surveying just 224 products rises to the challenge of this scandal, when you have asked the supermarkets to test thousands of their products by Friday?”