Lessons from Wales; fallacy of food safety inspections

Do more inspectors make food safer?


The latest evidence is from Professor Hugh Pennington, who concluded in a report last week that serious failings at every step in the food chain allowed butcher William Tudor to start the 2005 E. coli O157 outbreak, and that while the responsibility for the outbreak, “falls squarely on the shoulders of Tudor,” there was no shortage of errors.

Welsh First Minister Rhodri Morgan picked up on that theme yesterday and pledged to do everything possible to prevent a repeat of the E.coli outbreak of 2005 – for the sake of the families affected.

“Poor hygiene practices at the abattoir and the butcher’s premises” caused the outbreak, but he added,

“These failings were not dealt with effectively by the Meat Hygiene Service or local authority environmental health officers. …” Environmental health inspectors need to “sharpen up” and “drill down beyond the box-ticking part of the inspection process to the potential danger of the reality beyond.”

In his report Pennington said an inspector who made four pre-arranged visits to Tudor’s in the run-up to the outbreak, should not have allowed him to continue using one vacuum-packing machine for both raw and cooked meat because of the risk of cross contamination.

Among his 24 recommendations, Pennington said all checks should be unannounced, unless there were exceptional circumstances.

Don’t tell mom the babysitter’s dead.