07/10/2013 11:48 BST | Updated 07/12/2013 05:12 GMT

European Parliament to Decide on Whether Simple Visual Check Suffices Before Declaring Meat Safe for Consumption

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The European Parliament will this week have to decide whether plans by the European Commission to simplify meat inspections would compromise food safety. The Commission proposes to allow veterinarians to declare pigs in abattoirs fit for human consumption after a simple visual check. MEPs debated the plans on Monday 7 October and will vote on them on Wednesday 8 October.

Members of the Parliament's food safety committee fear that these proposals could result in sanitary problems and lead to health risks going undetected, so are recommending that the Parliament rejects the simplification.

The committee pointed out that large abattoirs deal with more than 500 pigs per hour and at that speed abnormalities such as tumours and abscesses might go undetected under the new rules. Also breaches of animal welfare rules could not be spotted if organs are not examined properly. The resolution the committee adopted also stressed that veterinarians from different member states have expressed concerns that they would no longer be able to conscientiously perform their tasks if the new legislation was adopted. Committee members added that if these new rules go into force, the number of uncontrolled, unchecked animal parts could be expected to increase.

In the past, MEPs have been keen to err on the side of caution when it comes to food safety. This approach has been warranted by the food scandals that have rocked Europe in recent years. Earlier this year consumers were shocked to discover that many food products contained horse meat. This led to calls for tougher controls and stricter labelling from MEPs. They also insist on better enforcement of existing rules by member states.

MEPs have also always been concerned about the welfare of animals, which has been closely linked to food safety. For instance, parliament was instrumental in getting a ban on seal products in the European Union approved. When asked to deal with food legislation, the look at it not only from the perspective of how the new rules will affect consumers, but also their potential impact on the animals involved.

Thank you to Izvora for making the photo available under the Creative Commons licence