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British Food Journal Volume 53 Issue 7 1951

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Article publication date: 1 July 1951

Abstract

The recommendations of this Committee published on May 30th of this year cover a very wide sphere. The report describes the present arrangements for the inspection of meat in Britain and the qualification and training of the meat inspectors. The difficulties associated with the storage and sale of meat in stalls, markets and mobile shops, and the problems of transport of meat and offal by road and rail are reviewed. The recommended standard for meat inspection known as Memorandum 62/Foods issued by the Ministry of Health in 1922 has been the subject, too, of much revision. The report is a comprehensive document, and the Committee took evidence from many authoritative bodies. It is surprising to note, however, the lack of representation on this Committee of sanitary inspectors, who, at present are, and have been for many years, responsible for at least 80 per cent of the meat inspection in England. Members of the local authorities and the meat trades will remember the Ministry of Health memorandum in 1940 which drew attention to the fact that, under the scheme of control, animals, meat and offal were Crown property until sold, and were not, therefore, subject to the provisions of the Food and Drugs Act relating to the seizure of unsound food. The Committee have considered this anomaly and recommend that the question of the meat inspector's statutory power to examine and, if necessary, to reject the meat should be considered. An even stronger recommendation than this would seem desirable. It is unfortunate that, whilst the meat inspector cannot seize Crown property, he has only to wait until it is in the hand of the unfortunate private owner or butcher, probably the next day, and he is then fully empowered to seize it. The Committee reviewed the qualification and training of meat inspectors, and having received very diverse evidence from the veterinary and medical profession and the Sanitary Inspectors‘ Association, they did not view with favour the scheme of the present meat inspectors acting as detention officers under the supervision of veterinary surgeons. This would mean relegating the present qualified meat inspector to the position of detention officer. He would be permitted to pass sound meat but would have to call in a veterinary surgeon or medical officer to confirm his findings in respect of meat which he wished to reject as unfit for human consumption. This restriction of responsibility was rightly deemed unwise. If an officer is fit to pass meat he is obviously fit to reject it, and the Committee decided that the professional training of the veterinary surgeon could be utilised to the best advantage in a supervisory capacity over a large abattoir or group of smaller abattoirs. This follows the present mode whereby the Ministry of Food veterinary surgeons pay periodical visits to abattoirs and slaughterhouses for liaison purposes, with a view to obtaining a uniform standard throughout the country. It is interesting to note that the Committee assumes that the duties of meat inspection will continue to remain the responsibility of local authorities; this is a wise recommendation appreciative of the difficulties of an officer of the Ministry of Food attempting to act in both a judicial and executive capacity. Another recommendation of far‐reaching importance was that there are men available in the butchery trade who, by reason of their practical experience, would make suitable candidates for training in meat inspection. It was considered unnecessary for such persons to qualify as sanitary inspectors, but a course of theoretical and practical training should be provided for these candidates to allow them to qualify as meat inspectors. The necessary amendment to the Food and Drugs Act is recommended to enable them to examine and seize meat. At the same time the Committee state that the holding of the Meat and Food Certificate of the Royal Sanitary Institute should be obligatory for sanitary inspectors carrying out meat inspection duties. This has been the consensus of opinion among that body for many years. The question of the registration of retail butchers’ shops was investigated, and the Committee felt that this was desirable, and that the suitability of the premises should be considered before granting registration. This should be a pre‐requisite for the opening of new businesses, and should be revocable; there should be a right of appeal to the courts against the decision of the local authority to refuse to grant or to cancel a registration. This would, for all practical purposes, bring all butchers' shops and meat storage premises under the scope of Section 14 of the Food and Drugs Act, which at present is only applicable to retail butchers if sausages or other kinds of meat products are manufactured on the premises. Members of the meat trade in general, and officers of the local authority will heartily agree with the Committee in their statement that it is not practicable to protect meat and open‐packed meat products against contamination when they are sold from stalls in the open air. The Committee state that the sale of meat and open‐packed meat products in the open air should be brought to an end, and suggest that registration should be granted to existing stalls on a temporary basis only. The question of mobile shops is also the subject of some attention, and the report states that mobile shops should be registered by the local authority of the area from which they operate; registration should be conditional upon approval by the local authority of the construction and equipment of these shops, and of the accommodation for the storage of meat. In relation to compulsory meat inspection, the Committee did not seem aware of the distribution made from pig clubs and individual pig owners, who periodically fatten and kill pigs. Under the present scheme a pig from such a source, slaughtered at an abattoir and found to be infected with tuberculosis, cannot be detained. The owner may, despite the carcase being diseased, take it away with him and, in some cases perhaps in ignorance of the risks involved, may quietly distribute the surplus amongst his friends. In all such cases it would have seemed advisable to insist on compulsory inspection and subsequent detention, where the interests of the individuals concerned would suffer by its consumption. The present system of centralised slaughtering, carried out for the past ten years, has many advantages. A rural authority prior to this time often had 20–30 slaughterhouses in its area; these would kill one to two animals a day, and adequate inspection of all carcases over such an area was often impossible. At present the majority of authorities in possession of a public abattoir and killing over 20,000 carcases a year, employ a full‐time meat inspector with the Royal Sanitary Institute certificate for the inspection of meat and other foods. It is to be hoped that the Ministry of Food will make a declaration of policy in so far as abattoirs are concerned. In the past they have refused to allow toll charges to be raised, some of which were fixed in 1925: as an alternative they agree to meet a loss beyond that incurred in the pre‐war years. This does not give an incentive for economical running, and the majority of authorities would prefer a proportionate rise in charges to meat the increase in labour and materials. Also, if the policy of centralised slaughtering is to continue, many abattoirs must be enlarged and provision made for adequate facilities. The Committee were convinced of the value of laboratory tests as a supplement to visual inspection of carcases, and recommended that laboratory accommodation and facilities should be provided at all new slaughterhouses, and wherever practicable at existing ones, to enable inspectors to carry out routine laboratory tests covering the examination of smears and tissues. This decision, too, appears to be inextricably linked with the question as to whether or not the present system of slaughtering is to continue. Local authorities and owners of large private slaughterhouses can hardly be expected to incur considerable expenditure in this sphere, merely to have their premises taken from them by subsequent legislation, or to be informed later that the abattoir and slaughterhouse is not going to be used to its capacity and a diversion made elsewhere.

Citation

(1951), "British Food Journal Volume 53 Issue 7 1951", British Food Journal, Vol. 53 No. 7, pp. 61-70. https://doi.org/10.1108/eb011473

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