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Meat inspectors more doubtful after first week of trials


*November 21, 2010*

*For Immediate Use*

*Meat inspectors more doubtful after first week of trials*

Independent government meat inspectors say they are even more sceptical of meat companies inspecting their own product after a week of witnessing company workers doing just that, says the New Zealand Public Service Association (NZPSA).

A six-month-long trial where meat company workers are carrying out inspection tasks normally done by independent government meat inspectors started last week (Mon 15 Nov) at the Affco Imlay meat plant with others set to begin shortly at the Alliance Mataura plant and Silver Fern Farms Pareora.

"Despite their misgivings, our meat inspector members are cooperating with the trials because they want to protect the quality and reputation of New Zealand meat. But what they saw last week doesn't fill them with confidence," says NZPSA National Secretary Richard Wagstaff.

"It was revealed on the first day of the Imlay plant trial that the United States wouldn't accept meat from it. We had previously been assured that our export partners had been informed and approved of the trials.

"We're hearing from our meat inspector members who've been observing the trial that the meat company "inspectors" are failing to detect defects, disease and faecal matter," says Richard Wagstaff.

"That's hardly surprising given that they've only had two or three days training. Independent meat inspectors thoroughly train for twenty weeks.

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"These trials have been timed so that much of the meat flowing through them is healthy 12-week-old spring lamb. Once these workers have to deal with an influx of older meat which carries more defects, their ability to spot defects and disease will be severely challenged.

"We would caution other meat companies against risking their reputation by taking part in trials. The current crisis in the kiwifruit industry shows how quickly disease can knock down our reputation on a multi-million dollar industry.

"These trials have been rushed through with a lack of consultation with our members and New Zealand's trading partners all because the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) and its Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) want to rush through their vision of deregulation that is supported by the meat industry.

"It goes without saying that New Zealand's export industry depends on our meat and agricultural production. The meat industry alone is worth nearly $6 billion dollars. Independent meat inspection costs a fraction of this expenditure.

"That price guarantees huge export markets that value the high quality of New Zealand meat. That's a good investment in anyone's book," says Richard Wagstaff.


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