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Food safety must be legislated upon properly

MEPs narrowly voted to approve a partial reform of the EU pig meat inspection regime today in Strasbourg.

SNP Member of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee Alyn Smith, along with his SNP colleague Ian Hudghton MEP, opposed the change after last minute alterations to the proposal were promised by the European Commission, though not formally communicated to MEPs, and remain unclear in their effects.

The SNP vote echoes concern by meat hygiene inspectors who expressed worry that the abolition of hands-on checks on pig meat could possibly set food safety back.  There were also concerns raised about the procedure the Commission used to implement the change and questions over why only one of three EFSA recommendations had been brought forward at this stage.

Alyn said:

"This is going to happen, and I can live with it, but this has not been a case study in good legislating and is right we made the Commission fight for it. We will certainly be keeping a close eye on the practical implementation of this on the ground.

"I've long said - having been the Draftsman for the Agricultural Committee on the Animal By-Products package myself - that meat inspection must be on the basis of the best and most up to date science available, so while I'm not hostile to this change in itself, I believe there is a wider picture to consider.

"EFSA made a number of recommendations, yet only one was actually brought forward, and we have yet to hear an adequate explanation as to why this was done.

"The procedure was also unsound and while it is very technical, we do not want to establish a precedent that policy on meat hygiene can be rushed through and rubber stamped without proper parliamentary scrutiny. The timing of this proposal was poor, given the period of objection was almost exactly the duration of the European Parliament recess.

"I want to ensure that meat hygiene rules have the maximum scrutiny so that the public can have faith in the regime. Even during the debate, the Parliament was promised changes to the proposal, but without those changes actually being communicated to MEPs.

"I hope that this fight by MEPs proves to the Commission that this is not the way to properly legislate, and that when they come forward with similar proposals for the sheep and cattle sector in due course, they do it with full respect towards the position of the Parliament."