Preventing another horsemeat scandal

FARMING organisations say the scandal surrounding horsemeat in beef burgers emphasises the need for clearer labelling on meat products.

FARMING organisations say the scandal surrounding horsemeat in beef burgers emphasises the need for clearer labelling on meat products.

Eblex said correct labelling would allow shoppers to see exactly what they are buying while also safeguarding their confidence in beef and lamb products.

The NFU said all UK retailers should look closely at their sourcing and labelling policies in the wake of the scandal.

The Food Standards Agency, Defra, local authorities and the food industry are working together to investigate why beef products, including burgers sold by Tesco, contained traces of horse and pig DNA.

NFU president Peter Kendall said: “The events of the past few days have severely undermined confidence in the UK food industry, and farmers are rightly angry that the integrity of stringent UK-farmed products is being compromised by using cheaper imported alternatives which, evidence suggests, do not meet the robust traceability systems we have in the UK.

“Farmers are equally concerned that the high standards and traceability they have to meet through farm assurance are not being upheld throughout the supply chain.”

Eblex sector director Nick Allen backed the NFU’s call for retailers to look again at their policies.

And he said farmers felt frustrated that they abided by strict production guidelines, only for apparently less care to be taken in some other parts of the supply chain.

Mr Allen said: “Co-mingling of meats of different country of origin has been repeatedly raised by consumers as a concern in recent years.

“We would support calls for clear, simple labelling and welcome a debate on the issue.

“Origin is important to people. They want to know provenance and exactly what is in the product they are buying.

“While it is accepted that lower value meat products are unlikely to contain as high a proportion of beef than at the quality end of the market, the contents still need to be clearly labelled on the packet.”

He urged shoppers to look for assurance marks such as the Red Tractor logo or the Quality Standard Mark (QSM) for beef or lamb.

“Our own QSM scheme is independently audited and remains robust,” said Mr Allen.

“However, in the light of this incident coming to light, we are looking at introducing random DNA testing to beef and lamb produced under our scheme as an additional failsafe.

“We await with interest the outcome of the investigation into how the horsemeat found its way into value beef burgers. We can then look at making sure it cannot happen again.”

The NFU said it was “particularly concerning” that the scandal was revealed at a time when farmers were struggling and consumer confidence is low.

“Retailers will know they must take immediate action to address both the integrity of all their suppliers, and at the same time ensure that UK products are easily distinguishable and clearly labelled,” said Mr Kendall.


David Whetstone
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