Meat inspection

The main purpose of meat inspection is to assure consumers about the safety, hygiene and nutritional value of their food.

Through checks on the live animal, carcase, offal, abattoirs, equipment, personnel and transport, meat inspection can also help detect and prevent public health hazards such as food-borne pathogens or chemical contaminants in food of animal origin.

Under EU legislation, pig carcases and offal are subject to ante mortem and post mortem inspection by officials at approved slaughterhouses before their meat can be placed on the market for human consumption.

These inspections check for signs of abnormalities that would present a public health risk or indicate animal health or welfare concerns. If such abnormalities were observed, the meat and/or offal could be declared unfit for human consumption. 

Details of these findings are fed back to the holding of provenance to enable producers to use this in the formulation of farm disease control plans.

However, meat inspection was developed over a decade ago to address lesions that were visual to naked eyes.  To address new hazards, which are mostly microbiological, pig meat inspection was reviewed based on scientific opinion from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).


From June 2014, EU legislation introduced three changes of direct relevance for pig slaughterhouses. They are:

  • Visual inspection of pig carcases and offal by government officials by default, with incision and palpation used only in cases where the Official Veterinarian (OV) is of the opinion that there is a possible risk to public health, animal health or animal welfare
  • Strengthened Salmonella testing
  • A more risk-based Trichinella testing regime

Useful links

Food Standards Agency

European Food Safety Authority

Pig meat safety and eating quality