A European Commission inspection of beef labelling which is expected
in the UK in less than a month's time will need to reassure farmers
that all systems are accurate and that persistent rumours that more
beef is sold as British, than is handled by packing plants, are false.
NBA chief executive, Robert Forster
So says the National Beef Association which is aware that
the last inspection by the Commission's Food and Veterinary Office
(FVO) in September 2002 identified an alarming number of occasions
when compliance with beef labelling rules fell well short of what
Also that recent examination by the RPA's abattoir inspectorate
in England and Wales revealed that over the 14 months to the end
of April some 70 centres out of 528 inspected had no traceability
system in place, there were 39 instances in which there were no
labels on incoming beef and 48 incidents when there were no labels
on outgoing product.
"None of this is encouraging to beef farmers who know their
futures depend on high provenance, high integrity, UK product being
carefully differentiated from imports, and distributed through
the retail and catering sectors at a premium, so producers can
earn more from their cattle and have more chance of being able
to survive," explained NBA chief executive, Robert Forster.
The Association wants to see fundamental improvements in the domestic
system which it says is flawed because government inspectors, dubbed "The
Farmers Police Force", are hampered by the low frequency of
packing plant visits.
"While we acknowledge that integrity levels at many packing
plants are high we nevertheless believe there are sections that
are entirely unsatisfactory and would like to see inspections conducted
on a risk basis so plants with the greatest opportunity to mix
and match are targeted and the industry can be more certain that
imported beef is not being passed off as home produced," said
"It is equally important that next month's FVO inspection
does not, as happened four years ago, leave the industry wincing
at the indifference displayed at some levels over the integrity
of the UK's beef labelling system and organisations like our own
worried that farmers and consumers are not getting the protection
they deserve because identifying non-British beef is not as easy
as it should be."
During the September 2002 inspection the FVO revealed that the
size of a batch of labelled beef frequently exceeded one day's
production, that carcases and carcase parts in abattoirs and cutting
plants were not individually identified by the kill number, and
traceability systems in some premises were ineffective because
there was no clear documentary trail.
"In addition to this separation between batches of incoming
beef was judged to be insufficient in some cases, packers safeguards
were mostly insufficient with incorrect labelling often not detected,
compulsory information was not always on the labels and in some
cases there was no clear link between incoming beef and outgoing
product," said Mr Forster.
"If the same level of poor practice is exposed during the
forthcoming inspection serious questions will have to be asked
by government, as well as industry, about whether the market led
development of the beef industry following subsidy decoupling is
being seriously hampered because vital product differentiation
is compromised by defective beef labelling and both the retail
and catering premiums sought by UK farmers are constantly undermined."
Plan Ahead Realistically for Finishing Stock Buying
The Stabiliser: the modern functional suckler cow
Stabiliser Project - interest gaining momentum