Violence, harassment, and bullying are just some of the issues faced by inspectors auditing slaughterhouses, a whistleblower has told the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
The source, who asked to remain anonymous because he feared recriminations, was contracted by the Food Standards Agency [FSA] as a meat inspector.
He worked at a small slaughterhouse in Somerset between 1998 and 2006.
He painted a grim picture of working inside the meat industry.
He told the Bureau: "The general public needs to know that inspectors and vets are dealing with physical and verbal abuse, damage to property.
"If someone pushed you up against the wall and battered you verbally in your office you’d be up for a disciplinary or maybe be fired on the spot.
"In this industry you’re expected to brush it off and come to work the next day."
For their own safety
According to the Bureau's report: "Official figures from the FSA revealed that between January 2013 and July 2016 inspectors had to be withdrawn from various meat plants for their own safety on 20 occasions, a story we covered in April 2017.
"Unions, which represent inspectors and vets, say that the problem is widespread.
"A Unison 2016 survey found nearly two thirds of inspectors and vets had witnessed bullying or harassment at work in the previous year."
In addition, the whistleblower spoke about the numerous hygiene failings at the facility - allegations backed up by official documents.
According to the Bureau, it has obtained internal Food Standard Agency inspection audits (not generally made public) for the abattoir in question.
Its report says: "The breaches include a significant level of faecal contamination of carcasses, failure to wash knives, and failure to stain animal byproducts so they are identifiable as unfit for human consumption."
Right to know
It added: "Regular hygiene lapses, coupled with poor regulation, could lead to dirty meat getting into the food chain and endangering human health, he believes.
"Previously unpublished official reports obtained by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism back up many of his claims."
The anonymous source said: "The general public have a right to know what goes on before meat comes to the supermarkets...It’s about time something was done."
The source spoke to journalists atthe Investigative Bureau of Journalism