New food body can’t be a smokescreen for further cuts

Last year’s horsemeat scandal highlighted the SNP’s cuts to the very services that would ensure high food standards. The number of food safety samples taken dropped from over 16,000 in 2008-09 to 10,236 in 2011-12, Unison found that the number of meat inspectors has dropped by over 50%, from 170 in 2003 to 75 in 2013. There has also been in Scotland an 11% fall in the number of environmental health officers and a 21% drop in the number of specialist food safety officers.

It is therefore vital that the launch of a new food body, included in the Scottish Government’s Food (Scotland) Bill does not just consolidate existing groups or be a smokescreen for further cuts.

It is also important that whilst the new food body has a clear Scottish focus and accountability to the Scottish Parliament there must be clear channels for information sharing with the rest of the UK.

Following the launch of the bill on Friday I joined my colleague Dr Richard Simpson in welcoming the Scottish Government finally publishing their news plans but highlighted that for it to work it must be adequately resourced and tackle Scotland’s growing health problems.

As Richard Simpson, our Public Health spokesperson, pointed out we must ensure that food standards and the inspection regime is improved and that it tackles the high level of salt, saturated fat and remaining transfat in our food.

With the launch of the bill it is important that the plans are properly scrutinised and bot my colleague Richard Simpson and I will continue to monitor the setting up of the new food body as it develops.