Under the plans, the industry itself, which generates nearly $6bn a year, will take responsibility for some traditional non-food safety tasks currently under the control of regulators.
Specially trained meat company inspectors, rather than the government’s AsureQuality meat inspectors, will carry out non-food safety aspects of meat inspections, including meat quality. Government inspectors will continue carcase-by-carcase inspections for food safety-related conditions. What are claimed to be successful trials have been undertaken by AFFCO.
But New Zealand’s trade union The Public Service Association has expressed concern over the decision, saying it was a retrograde step in quality control and a threat to the country’s meat trade. Independent government inspection guaranteed to overseas consumers that New Zealand meat was high-quality and could be trusted.
The new system will initially apply to meat derived from sheep, cattle and goats. Changes are expected to be implemented over an extended period of time. Initially, the intention is to implement the changes in a small number of meat establishments and then progressively move on from there.
Several countries have undertaken similar trials over the past 10 years. In May 2010, the European Union (EU) launched a major revision of its meat inspection standards and sought scientific input from the European Food Safety Authority. Revisions are still being developed.