7 March 1997

Assured meat by spring

By Rebecca Austin

THE meat industry aims to have set up its integrated assurance scheme – Assured British Meat – by this spring, predicts Chris Brown, Meat and Livestock Com- missions beef strategy manager.

By then international standards for credible consumer assurance schemes operating at all stages of the livestock and meat chain for cattle and sheep will be resolved. Independent directors and chairman will also have been appointed. This will lead the way for the UKs 120,000 livestock producers to support the schemes. A similar scheme in Eire will, however, be compulsory.

"ABM will be an industry-owned initiative so if the industry supports and pushes it there is no reason why it shouldnt succeed," says Dr Brown. "We all recognise it is a hard task, but the goal is important enough for us all to aim for. The biggest hurdle is agreeing an international standard."

The integrated assurance initiatives key aim is to restore consumer confidence in British meat in terms of food safety and animal welfare. To achieve this international standards will aim to:

&#8226 Restore consumer confidence.

&#8226 Enhance the perception of the meat industry.

&#8226 Invite independent scrutiny.

&#8226 Demonstrate its openness and responsiveness to consumer and societal issues.

With food safety, rather than quality assurance, the key issue Dr Brown says there will still be room for individual branding, for example by breed or region, within ABM. However, he urges farmers to seek credible farm assurance membership immediately to ensure into ABM.

Government funding and MLC levy support will be used to establish ABM, but subscriptions will be required to fund independent auditing of individual schemes.

"It is important to remember this industry – which is worth £14bn at retail level – is facing on-going pressure," says Dr Brown. "The aim is food safety. We must take out insurance for the future. None of us know if the industry will face another challenge, so part of the scheme will enable those in the food chain to have the assurance meat is produced, treated and utilised in a safe manner."

Integrated assurance for British meat by the spring. MLC beef strategy manager Chris Brown:"ABMwill be an industry-owned initiative. If the industry supports it there is no reason why it shouldnt succeed."


KEY FEATURES


&#8226 Maximum industry uptake.

&#8226 Strong independent chairman with most of the seven board members not from industry.

&#8226 Use of existing scheme and government legislation wherever possible.

&#8226 Common standards to operate throughout GB.

&#8226 Generate standards in sectors where currently none exist.

&#8226 Rigorous inspection and monitoring procedures.