Supermarkets set traceability challenge on imported pork

Supermarkets set traceability challenge on imported pork

NFU Scotland has set major supermarkets a traceability challenge to reassure consumers and the industry that no illegally produced imported pork is appearing on their shelves.

Major changes to pig welfare standards were introduced across Europe at the start of this year that significantly restrict the use of sow stalls on farms. The UK banned the use of such stalls 13 years ago and, since that time, all Scottish or UK pork, bacon and ham has been produced to this higher welfare standard.

However, only four other Members States are known to have met the 31st December 2012 deadline on new requirements and 13 European countries are believed to be some considerable way from complying with the new sow stall rules. As a result, thousands of pigs across Europe are still being produced every day in systems that have been outlawed.

In support of UK producers, major retailers have stated their intention not to stock imported pigmeat produced on non-compliant European farms.

On Monday 14th January, NFU Scotland bought a selection of imported and UK pork products at Tesco, Asda, Morrisons, Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury’s stores. No imported produce was found in M&S but imported pork from Denmark, Holland, France and Germany was available elsewhere. It returned to those stores selling imports this week and asked store managers to start an audit trail to trace those products back to farms in their country of origin. The Union has asked supermarkets to report back with their findings next week. Several have already been back in touch to let us know the action they are undertaking.

NFU Scotland’s pigs committee chairman, Phil Sleigh said: “Last week’s furore around the production of beef burgers firmly underlines that all parts of the food chain are required to meet very high standards regarding the quality, traceability and labelling of fresh meat and processed products. Consumers expect no less.

“To their credit, major supermarkets have give UK pig farmers reassurances that where they choose to import pork, bacon or ham, they will only stock from European farms that comply with the new rules and that no illegally produced products would appear on shop shelves.

“This is an opportunity for retailers to back up that reassurance with firm evidence by tracking imported products bought in individual stores all the way back to the farm of origin. If that were the case, it would send out a very positive message and we think a week is a reasonable time to complete that investigation.

“Given last week’s revelations and questions on traceability, being able to provide an audit of the whole supply chain would show supermarkets to be delivering on their pledge and ensure that pig farmers – whether in Scotland or in Europe – are competing for shelf space in Scottish supermarkets on an equal footing.”

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