Up to 150 000 jobs become available each year in food processing and manufacturing activities. Since 2004 many of these jobs have been filled by citizens from overseas, particularly from the new EU Member States.
As a result, there has been a significant increase in workers from Eastern European and Baltic States including, in particular, Poland, the Ukraine, the Czech and Slovak republics, Latvia, Lithuania and more recently Bulgaria and Romania.
Overseas workers are now an essential part of the UK economy and localised rural economies and many businesses are reliant on them to survive.
There are significant numbers of overseas workers in most of the 30 food and drink manufacturing sectors in the industry which include meat and fish processing, dairies, bakeries, fruit and vegetable processing, confectionery manufacture, chilled and frozen products and drink manufacture.
Over 50% of injuries to food manufacture workers result from manual handling heavy or awkward loads or from slips on wet or food-contaminated floors. Other severe injuries can result from falls from height, machinery or workplace transport such as lift trucks.
In addition, a significant number of food manufacture workers suffer occupational ill-health, in particular, musculoskeletal disorders (e.g. caused by repetitive work on production lines), occupational dermatitis, occupational asthma (e.g. from flour dust) and noise-induced hearing loss.