Meat from animals infected with diseases could make it into the food chain and onto consumer plates following changes by the European Commission to modernise legislation, food inspectors warn.
Statistics show that between 2012 and 2014 more than two million occurrences of tapeworm were found in red meat and during these years, carcasses carrying tapeworms and animals infected with pneumonia, septicaemia, peritonitis and tumours were extracted by inspectors.
The European Commission has stated that changes to take place will amend regulations that list all the diseases to be removed from the human food chain and replace it with a more general conditions regarding safety, health and welfare.
More than 560,000 cases of milkspot, caused by parasitic roundworm larvae, were identified in pigs in the past two years. Nearly 3m chickens contaminated with faeces during slaughter were stopped from becoming food in the same period. Inspectors warn that such diseased and dirty meat may be more likely to enter the food chain if proposed changes to abattoir inspections go ahead.
As well as the 3m chickens recorded as being contaminated with chicken faeces, 5.5m cases of ascites – a build-up of fluid caused by heart or liver disease – were identified, along with 1.8m cases of peritonitis and 4m of septicaemia.
Faecally contaminated chicken is the leading cause of campylobacter, the most common form of human food poisoning in the UK. It can be killed by thorough cooking, but there are 460,000 reported cases, 22,000 hospitalisations and 110 deaths each year as a result of the illness.
The FSA pointed out that more than 1.7bn chickens were slaughtered over the two-year period and that carcasses rejected by inspectors represented a tiny fraction of the total throughput.
The European commission has argued that it needs to modernise legislation affecting the food chain and is in the process of reducing 70 pieces of detailed regulation down to a framework of five overarching regulations to "reduce the burden on business" and "improve consumer protection".
Currently, all chicken carcasses are checked after slaughter by official inspectors or vets in factories, but the European Food Safety Authority has recommended that this requirement be abolished as it is ineffective at identifying contamination.