6 October 2000
‘Consumers don’t want assurance’

By FWi staff

CONSUMERS are not prepared to pay extra for food produced under quality assurance schemes, claims a leading industry figure.

They expect the Government and the EU to have regulations guaranteeing food meets minimum standards, says Lord Haskins, chairman of Northern Foods.

Speaking on the BBC Radio 4 Farming Today programme, Lord Haskins said: “Consumers do not believe that over and above that there is an assurance scheme which they are going to pay for.

“That is the reality, and we can see it in supermarkets in the way people buy foods.”

EU food commissioner David Byrne agreed that self-regulation was not the best way to improve safety.

He said: “We must put the laws in place and establish minimum requirements for everyone to adhere to.

“Im not convinced self-regulation is the appropriate way forward when youre dealing with questions relating to public health and food safety.”

But Jim Reed, chief executive of UKASTA, which represents animal feed manufacturers, said self-regulation had an important role, in addition to regulations.

“I think the lesson weve learned from BSE is that just having the laws in place isnt enough. Youve got to have good practices everywhere on top of that,” he said.

This week, the European parliament has adopted the first reading of commission proposals on undesirable substances in animal feed.

Mr Byrne said this was valuable for farmers gave security know exactly what they are feeding and helped with traceability.

“Its not so much more bureaucracy for the farmers, but giving them even more information,” he insisted.

And as farm minister Nick Brown considers the Phillips inquiry BSE report, Mr Reed said the feed industry did not accept the blame for the crisis.

He said: “Its still a mystery why the use of meat and bonemeal in this country resulted in an epidemic, while it doesnt appear to have done so anywhere else in the world.”