6 October 1999
Brown talks tough on pigmeat labels

By Donald MacPhail

AGRICULTURE minister Nick Brown has pledged to bring in tough new labelling rules to end confusion over the country of origin of pigmeat sold in British supermarkets.

The guidelines, which will be enforceable by trading standards officers, were promised by Mr Brown at a meeting yesterday with pig industry leaders.

At present, the country of origin is often unclear as imported pigmeat can be labelled British simply because it was processed in the UK.

The minister will hold further meetings with the catering and retail industries to reinforce the message and see what action they will take.

Mr Brown also agreed to a joint government/industry approach to BSE advisory committee SEAC to try to persuade it to allow porcine material to be fed to poultry.

On the “BSE tax” – knock-on costs from the BSE crisis – the minister promised an urgent investigation and will report back to the pig industry next week.

Graham England, National Pig Association chairman, said: “We need to find out if were being discriminated against.

“Is it fair that we have to pay BSE taxes when it has no connection with the pig industry? Its a public food safety issue, but we must carry it.

“If Belgian farmers get state aid for dioxin, why cant we for BSE?”

Mr Brown also said he recognised the concern that the expected price premium when Britain introduced the stall-and-tether ban this year had not happened.

But the minister made it clear that financial aid from the government to help the industry through its current crisis was not an option.

In a two-and-a-half hour meeting NPA leaders and NFU president Ben Gill told the minister the beleaguered industry was “in meltdown”.

Mr England said: “The minister has no excuse for not acknowledging the dire straits the industry is in. The point was rammed home time and time again

“Im absolutely confident he recognises how serious the situation is.”

In the 12 months up to June the UK breeding herd fell by 11.5%. Despite these cuts, prices have not risen and producers are losing £7 per pig, according to the NPA.

Producers blame a global glut in pigmeat, the strength of Sterling, and higher animal welfare costs than competitors.

Pig welfare standards in Britain were this week praised by the RSPCA and Compassion in World Farming (CIWF).

Both groups are campaigning for retailers and caterers to sell only non-stall-and-tether-produced pigmeat.