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 December 31, 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. January 24, 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.
NFU Scotland’s Pigs Committee Chairman, Phil Sleigh said: “The 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.
“Now all pig farmers in Europe are required to comply with new welfare rules that restrict the use of sow stalls on farms. Those are standards that we have been meeting in Scotland and the rest of the UK for more than 13 years.
“However, we are aware that there is a significant level of non-compliance in many other Member States and pigs are still continuing to be produced in systems now outlawed across Europe.
“To their credit, major supermarkets 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.”