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Parliamentarians urged to crack the whip over sourcing and labelling

by 5m Editor
12 July 2004, at 12:00am

UK - Lord Carter is urging members of Parliament to take up the cause of honest sourcing and honest labelling of pork and pork products.

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National Pig Association
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Achieving progress at a European level was going to be a tortuous business, he said after yesterday's launch of NPA's Best Practice Guidelines. "It will be much quicker to get retailers, and particularly food service companies, to voluntarily change their ways."

MPs and members of the Lords could raise the tempo by putting down written and oral questions and lobbying relevant select committees. "It is all about networking… making sure the information gets round."

Launching NPA's Best Practice Guidelines yesterday, he said that as someone who had been involved in the farming and costing of pigs for almost 50 years, the initiative had his full support.

It was important, he said, that both sectors became involved with the initiative - foodservice as well as retailers. "This is not to stop imports but to encourage only those that meet our standards. To coin a phrase, we want a level playing field. I think as parliamentarians we will have to follow this up."

Food and farming minister Lord Whitty sent a message of support, saying he applauded the NPA initiative, which should lead to consumers having more information about products… "in a way that enables them to compare the merits of products from different sources at the point of purchase."

He said he welcomed voluntary initiatives between parts of the supply chain, which embracd the principle of informed customer choice. "Providing information about production methods and standards represents a valuable and transparent service to customers. I look forward to hearing how this initiative develops and the outcome it delivers."

Defra director of sustainable farming and livestock production Sonia Phippard also voiced Defra's support for NPA's Best Practice Guidelines. "We see this very much as an industry initiative but one we support and welcome and we will be interested to see how it develops," she said.

NPA chairman Stewart Houston paid tribute to retailers such as Tesco, who had already expressed an interest in the Best Practice Guidelines. He acknowledged that retailers and foodservice companies that had an honest labelling policy and sourced to British standards were put under price pressure from those that did not. "It is policy we are after," he said. "Not PR."

He anticipated support from retailers such as Waitrose and Marks and Spencer, because they had a tradition of supporting British agriculture, but he feared that some of the others would not be knocking on NPA's door tomorrow morning wanting to sign up to the Best Practice Guidelines.

"However, we have become skilled at negotiating with them to bring them step by step nearer to an ethical position," he said. "A few years ago labelling in supermarkets was terrible but as a result of ongoing talks, it has gradually improved."

A Europe-wide initiative to create a set of standards for retailing food was unlikely to be relevant to British pig producers, whose standards were so much higher, he said.

Eurep (Euro Retailer Produce Working Group) Gap (Good Agricultural Practice) is a platform of leading retailers in Europe working towards a minimum production standard for a good agricultural practice.

"It will set a standard but it is unlikely to be better than the lowest legal requirements across Europe," said BPEX chief executive Mick Sloyan. He warned: "The fear is that people will try an use it as a badge of respectability."

Source: National Pig Association - 12th July 2004

5m Editor