By Peter Crichton

UK producers are claiming that some imported pigmeat may contain unacceptably high levels of residues and comprises current high health standards in this country.

Budgens, the supermarket chain, has denied that its Belgian-sourced pigmeat contains tranquilliser residues and claims that all its pigmeat came from assured farms meeting UK animal welfare codes.

This announcement was met with disbelief by many UK producers, who said they were unaware that Belgium had identical welfare rules to the UK. They are further puzzled by the fact the current producer price in Belgium is reported to be 13p/kg higher than in the UK.

Producers are suggesting that Budgens must be buying at the bottom end of the Belgium market, which is less likely to have adopted the welfare standard referred to.

Also on the food safety front are fears that the Government may ditch its commitment to set up a Food Standards Agency. Professor Hugh Pennington who lead the enquiry into the Scottish E coli outbreak that claimed 21 lives, said that if plans to set up the Agency were scrapped or pushed beyond the year 2000 this could be “disastrous”.

Safety-conscious UK pig producers feel that the proposed Agency could bar any imported pigmeat that did not match up to our high health and traceability levels.