‘Exercise Compliance’ will check for illegal pigmeat

‘Exercise Compliance’ will check for illegal pigmeat

The British pig industry will this week start checking that pork from illegal European Union farms is not entering the British food chain.

National Pig Association’s (NPA) ‘Exercise Compliance’ follows what it claims is the success of its website Wall of Fame, where the nation’s top retailers and brands have pledged not to sell pork or pork products from continental farms that are flouting the European sow stalls ban.

Even though they were given ten years’ notice, NPA claims that over 60% of European Union countries have failed to comply with Europe’s sow stalls ban, which was introduced at the beginning of this year. NPA, working with the UK government, says it is determined to stop pork from these lower-welfare farms being sold to unsuspecting British consumers.

‘Exercise Compliance’ will involve selecting imported pork products at random and asking the British companies that sell them to trace them back to their farms of origin — to prove the farms in question really have implemented the stalls ban.

“We believe the British food companies that have made the pledge on our Wall of Fame have conscientiously done what we asked of them, by gaining commitments from their suppliers that only pork from legal farms has been used,” said NPA regions manager Lizzie Press. “But now we want to test those statements by tracing randomly selected packs back to their farms of origin.”

NPA has already visited the Netherlands with retailer Asda to visit two farms that produce pork for the Asda supply chain. Lizzie Press added: “Although we visited only a representative sample, it was clear both farms were fully compliant with the sow stalls ban and we were satisfied with the farm standards we observed.”

The UK unilaterally banned sow stalls outright 14 years ago, but the European Union did not introduce the ban for all European Union farms until January this year — although continental farmers were warned in 2003 of the January 2013 implementation date.

Even now the ban is only partial. Although sows can no longer be confined in stalls for most of their productive lives they can still be legally kept in stalls for about 20% of the time.

NPA shares with Environment secretary of state Owen Paterson the view that it is unacceptable that nine member countries have still not fully complied with the European stalls ban. Paterson has praised the NPA Wall of Fame campaign, and has promised to continue to press the European Commission for action on law-breakers at every opportunity.

The NPA says that the European Commission has started infraction proceedings against nine countries — Denmark, Poland, Belgium, Greece, Ireland, Germany, France Cyprus and Portugal — but it is a long process which can take over a year. “So it remains essential that sourcing continues to be robust and monitored,” said the NPA.

NPA has already made its random selection of imported products sold by companies that have signed the Wall of Fame pledge and will be sending out letters this week, asking them to carry out a full traceability exercise to confirm the products in question contain only legally-produced pork.

“I am sure that the companies that have signed our Wall of Fame are as keen as we are to assure their customers of the traceability of the pork and pork products they import, particularly following the recent horsemeat scandal which has shaken consumer’s faith in the food chain,” said Lizzie Press.

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