Labour MEPs have voted in Strasbourg for stricter inspections across the food chain and stringent penalties for food fraud.
The European Parliament voted through measures to ensure inspections on food businesses are independent, transparent and rigorous, with MEPs also voting for protection for whistle blowers and for financial penalties in cases of fraud to be at least double the expected gain.
David Martin MEP, Scotland’s senior European MP, said:
‘The horsemeat scandal exposed large-scale fraud in the meat industry and made it clear we need to take action to ensure inspections are effective at identifying and dealing with this sort of criminality.
"Inspections should be unannounced wherever possible and the penalties for those who break the law should act as a real deterrent and show we're serious about cracking down on those who deliberately mislead consumers as to the nature of their food.
Under the proposals, operators would have to produce traceability records showing who supplies them and who they supply in turn, with MEPs voting to restore the requirement for an official veterinarian to be present in abattoirs, following reports last week that rules on meat inspections were being watered down.
Mr Martin added:
‘The food industry is so important to Scotland’s economy that producers and suppliers simply have to get a grip on their supply chains. If they don't know where their meat has come from, they have no way of knowing if it's safe for human consumption.
‘The decision to cut back on meat inspections was just another example of the drive to reduce regulation at the expense of consumer safety. All inspections should be carried out by a suitably qualified and independent official.’
Along with all the other Labour MEPs David Martin also voted to exempt small businesses from fees for inspections.
Commenting on this in Strasbourg Mr Martin said:
‘We agree that food inspections must be properly funded. The horsemeat scandal highlighted the way food can pass through several different countries before it ends up on your plate, so cuts in one country will affect food safety elsewhere.
‘But we also believe Member States should have the flexibility to decide how they finance inspections, and we certainly don't want to see small businesses facing additional costs that many will struggle to afford.
‘This important vote has delivered a fair report, which should take us a step further toward restoring consumer confidence in the food industry.’