25 May 1999
Assurance boss will succeed or quit

By FWi staff

THE head of one of the countrys largest farm assurance schemes yesterday (Monday) indicated he would resign unless the scheme is fully operational before the end of next year.

David Peace, chief executive of Assured British Meat (ABM), said he was confident that agreed standards would be in place for the entire meat industry by the end of 2000.

About £5 million was made available to ABM when the organisation was launched in January last year to boost consumer confidence in British meat after the BSE crisis.

Jack Cunningham, then minister of agriculture, gave ABM three years to introduce umbrella certification across the entire meat industry before it became self-financing.

Since the launch, ABM officials have established comprehensive safety standards in the form of assurance schemes for almost every link in the meat supply chain.

But ABM negotiators have yet to successfully finalise an agreed set of standards for two essential sectors of the meat supply industry.

Farmers were among the first sectors of the industry to climb aboard when ABM received the backing of the Farm Assured British Beef and Lamb scheme last July.

A scheme laying down minimum standards for retail butchers was launched last November and a scheme for abattoirs was launched earlier this month.

But half-way into its funding period, ABM-endorsed codes of practice for cold store operators and meat manufacturers are still being thrashed out behind the scenes.

Mr Peace, who became ABM chief executive in April last year, said he was determined a deal will be struck before ABMs funding runs out in 18 months time.

“If that doesnt happen, I guess you will probably be looking at a new chief executive,” he said yesterday.

Recent progress has been on some fronts, however.

An assurance scheme for catering butchers was unveiled yesterday afternoon at the annual general meeting of the National Association of Catering Butchers (NACB).

The catering scheme encompasses all existing legislation and also covers purchased goods, temperature control, transport, hygiene, equipment and training.

Mr Peace told delegates at the NACB meeting in London that catering was a huge growth area, forecast to account for one third of total meat consumption by 2005.

“ABM is well on the way to achieving its launch pledge of delivering credible, independent safety standards integrated across the entire meat industry,” he said.

The NACB, which was established in 1985 to represent the interests of butchers who supply the catering trade, will now publicise the scheme with its customers.

A major marketing campaign will target the hospitality and catering industries in an attempt to persuade them to source meat only from ABM-accredited butchers.

Damien Murray, NACB chairman, said the scheme “reinforced the importance” that all caterers and restaurateurs should source meat only from NACB members.