Eville & Jones, the company that supplies Official Veterinarians (OVs) for the Food Standards Agency (FSA), said the shortage had reached “crisis point” and blamed Brexit uncertainty for losing about 20 vets a month.
CIEH head of policy Tony Lewis said the Government had been repeatedly warned of Brexit’s negative impact on staffing in a number of sectors where there was a high reliance on EU nationals fulfilling key roles. This was especially true for the meat sector, where many OVs are from the EU.
‘Lack of understanding’
“We have been concerned for some time that the Government is simply not getting a grip on the key issues around Brexit and the UK’s food security and this is simply another example of their lack of understanding,” said Lewis.
“Our new report, Feeding Britain: Food Security after Brexit, raises all the key issues the Government urgently needs to be considering to maintain our food supply and protect our food industry after Brexit. We sincerely hope that they will properly engage with it.”
Lewis added that the CIEH could point the FSA towards an untapped pool of health professionals who, having previously held responsibility in this area, could step in and help address the current shortage of meat inspectors.
Threatening the security of food
The CIEH report also warned that a no-deal Brexit ran the risk of threatening the security of food in the UK, if the Government didn’t factor in the agri-food industry in Brexit negotiations.
It also criticised contingency plans from the Government to suspend food regulations in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Co-author of the report Professor Tim Lang said: “One could argue that this is sensible emergency planning, but it is also risky. Consumers would rightly wonder who was guaranteeing the safety and quality of the imported food they were buying.”