The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health has warned that cuts in local government funding are damaging public health standards.
It said that in the wake of the horsemeat scandal, it “cannot be underestimated how deeply public trust in our food supply and systems has been eroded”.
Cuts to local council budgets are impacting on enforcement performed by environmental health practitioners (EHPs), port health inspectors and trading standards officers in protecting health while food is in preparation, on sale or in transit.
Tony Lewis, CIEH Head of Policy and Education, said:
“The public expect the highest standards of food safety and to ensure this they rely on EHPs to provide this protection through inspection, sampling and enforcement.
“The financial cuts imposed on local government are having a profound impact in some parts of the country with the loss of key staff. It is essential that we have competent, qualified EHPs available to maintain this core service”
“In light of events over the last four weeks it would seem imperative that we look again closely at the relationship between the regulators (FSA and Defra), the regulatory enforcers (EHPs) and the businesses regulated by them to ensure that the consumer’s health interests are paramount.”
Mr Lewis said even if it is proved criminality is behind the fraudulent adulteration of meat on the market, this does not relieve manufacturers and retailers of their legal duty and responsibility to produce and sell food that is safe and labelled accurately.
The CIEH wants assurances that councils will have the funds to investigate suspected wrong-doing through planned and ad hoc food sampling.