Despite this, Scotland’s Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead announced yesterday (19 February) that two expert food groups will be created as a result of the recent issue of horsemeat in some processed beef products.
One of the groups will advise on the possible changes needed to be made to the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in Scotland, ahead of the creation of a new stand-alone Food Standards body in the country.
The second group will move forward the Scottish food industry’s work on traceability and provenance. Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) will also be asked to look at extending its label further into the processing sector.
Lochhead made the announcements in a statement to Parliament yesterday, where he also confirmed that nearly 50% of the meat processing facilities in Scotland had been inspected so far – with no evidence of horsemeat. The statement followed a series of meetings between the food industry and the Minister since the horsemeat issue emerged.
“Both inspections of meat premises and testing of products to date show no evidence of horse meat within meat processing companies in Scotland. With almost 50% of inspections in meat processing premises having been completed, this is very reassuring. However we know we must not be complacent and remain vigilant as these inspections continue,” he said.
Testing has been carried out on meals made for the public sector in Scotland, including those in schools, hospitals and prisons, and wider testing has been carried out to “provide reassurance”, he said.
Lochhead added: “Consultation is due to begin shortly on a stand-alone Food Body in Scotland and the Scottish Government is currently considering the implications of the horsemeat issue on this consultation. Today I have announced that the Public Health Minister will be establishing an expert group to advise on any changes needed within the FSA in Scotland to allow this new body to be created.
“I continue to speak regularly to key stakeholders to ensure that Scotland – and in particular our premium Scotch Beef brand – does not suffer unnecessary collateral damage. Tomorrow [20 February] I will meet with Scottish industry-wide bodies in Edinburgh to discuss the issue further.”