Farmers who are members of a recognised assurance scheme will be inspected less than producers that are not, the Food Standards Agency has announced.

The FSA estimates that the move, which will effectively shift the focus of food hygiene inspectors to ‘high-risk’ premises, could save farmers more than £570,000 and benefit more than 100,000 farms.

The FSA’s decision means that only 2% of assured farms will face statutory inspections, as compared with 20% of non-assured farms.

The NFU and Assured Food Standards said the decision to reduce the level of statutory inspections for assured farmers and growers, was in recognition of the high standards to which they already operate.

In a joint statement the NFU and AFS said: “We were integral in achieving this new inspection scheme which makes use of the robust systems already in place within the industry to deliver regulatory objectives and avoid duplicate farm inspections.
 
“Under the Red Tractor scheme farmers and growers produce fresh, quality food to a high standard of safety with guaranteed traceability back to the farm gate and we welcome this announcement which recognises the added value this brings.
 
“However, this arrangement must be extended to dairy farmers who also follow good hygiene practices to achieve high levels of food safety.”

Philip Clarke, Head of the FSA’s Better Regulation and Consultation Branch, said: “The agency is firmly committed to reducing regulatory burdens on food businesses, while still maintaining the highest levels of consumer protection.

“The initiative announced will help focus inspections and make regulations simpler.  This will benefit farmers, local authorities, and consumers, as we believe making compliance with the law simpler will increase levels of compliance.”