Poultry veterinarians in Israeli cities are threatening to go on strike October 26 in protest over changes to food safety inspections of meat and fish. Shortages could occur if the strike lasts more than 1 or 2 days and, already, there has been a jump in wholesale meat and fish prices, reports Haaretz.
The Ministry of Agriculture announced this week that a strike would reduce the number of poultry sent to slaughterhouses by about one-quarter, adding that processors were already working at full capacity in order to mitigate the effects of any strike on supplies.
At the heart of the dispute is the “Cornflakes Law,” which was passed to bring more competition to the country’s food industry. One of its clauses shifted responsibility for meat inspection from municipal veterinary authorities to local government. A new joint venture has been set up between the agriculture and health departments to oversee the handling of animal products, with the aim to reduce regulations and costs. Instead of taking place at municipal borders, inspections will be carried out at retail level in future by the veterinarians in the new service. This will allow meat processors to use their transport fleets more efficiently and to maintain the cool chain by ending the need for trucks to be opened for inspection at each municipality boundary.
“We want the products to be inspected, but at the end point and not in the middle of the process,” said Avshalom Dolev of the poultry wholesalers association, whose members account for about half of the country’s slaughterhouses. “We’re even ready to pay for the inspections, as is written in the law, and take responsibility for the products until they reach the grocery store.”
Veterinarians say that the new legislation does not advance reform. Furthermore, the government pays less than the municipalities and they will have to work longer and more flexible hours.