Pig industry will nail the Quality Mark shysters, says NPA.

UK - Retailers, processors and any others who attempt to pass off cheap imported pork as quality assured British meat are to be tracked down and exposed in a campaign of "forensic" checks, reports the NPA.
calendar icon 17 July 2003
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NPA is active on members' behalf in Brussels & White-hall, and with pro-cessors, supermarkets, caterers – fighting for the growth and pros-perity of the UK pig industry.

The Quality Standard Mark is pig producers' guarantee to shoppers that the pork products they buy come from pigs raised to high British welfare and safety standards.

But there is growing concern the Quality Standard Mark is being abused. "We cannot make the sums add up," declared an angry Ian Campbell of the National Pig Association today.

The British Pig Executive shares the growing concern about dishonest labelling of pork products in supermarkets and have asked independent auditors EFSIS to carry out exhaustive checks, confirmed BPEX chief executive Mick Sloyan this afternoon.

EFSIS will arrive unannounced at abattoirs and carry out "forensic" checks that will probably take a whole day at each location.

They will trace pork cuts backwards to the production batch, and forwards into the finished retail product.

They will audit both Quality Standard Mark (QSM) product and non-QSM product - including imports - to ensure pork and pork products in supermarkets are being described and labelled properly.

The news comes as pig producers prepare for a summer of discontent, including blockades of supermarket retail distribution depots.

Pig producers are furious that supermarkets have pulled the rug from under them just as the industry was showing signs of recovery after five difficult years, during which time the national pig herd has shrunk by over a third.

Despite earlier pledges to stay loyal to British pork - which is produced to more exacting standards than most imported pork - most retailers have gone on a huge continental spending spree over the past month, causing the price British producers receive for their pigs to plummet by 15 percent in just three weeks.

Some British abattoirs are reported to share the pig producers' fury. They say supermarkets have told them, "Get your prices down, and we don't care if that means bringing in more imports."

A report to be published tomorrow by the British Pig Executive (BPEX) shows the true extent of the damage.

The BPEX report - which will send shockwaves through the meat industry - shows that despite retailers' frequent claims to the contrary most imported pork does not comply with British standards.

The report says:

  • Imports from other EU countries have increased significantly in the last five years and particularly in 2003. These imports are dominated by pork loin cuts and to a lesser extent legs, used for further processing into cooked hams and gammons. As a consequence of this, the number of pigs required to produce the required volume of UK imports is far higher than the tonnage of imports suggests.
  • Among the main suppliers, a minimum of between 35% and 73% of pigs slaughtered are required to cover the volume to the United Kingdom. Among the other suppliers the figure is around 10%. In practise a higher percentage than this would be required as not all pigs produced under a "UK contract" would meet other quality criteria suchas weight range and fatness.
  • The UK has universally applied minimum production standards that are higher than in most other EU countries. In addition, over 90% of UK pigmeat is produced under internationally recognised Quality Assurance Schemes that operate above the legal minimum standards.
"It is clear from this analysis," says the BPEX report, "that while some countries have tried to encourage the production of pigs to a so-called 'UK Specification', the number of pigs currently being produced is completely inadequate to meet the volume currently imported."

Further information

To view the complete report please visit our features section by clicking here,
or to see it in PDF format, please click here.

Source: National Pig Association - 17th July 2003

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