22 October 1999
Danish threat to UK pig farmers

By Simon Wragg

DANISH pig producers have threatened to release potentially damaging salmonella statistics if Britain continues to claim Danish pigmeat is inferior.

John Howard, of the Danish Bacon & Meat Council, said the Danes would be forced to “defend their corner” if unwarranted attacks on Danish bacon continued.

Mr Howard acknowledged and accepted Danish producers still had some ground to cover to voluntarily meet legislation imposed on UK farmers.

But he claimed the Danish industry was well ahead of the UK in monitoring and controlling salmonella within the national pig herd.

“We have no wish to bring the [salmonella] argument into the consumer arena … unless we feel it necessary to defend our corner against attacks,” he said.

Danish figures show that about 1% of all pork samples exhibited the presence of salmonella, compared with 2%-50% for other Continental countries.

All Danish pig units finishing over 100 animals a year are tested at an annual cost of £8-£10 million, 90% of which is paid by producers.

The level of mandatory measures – which see producers fined up to £3.60 a pig unless salmonella is reduced – are only equalled in Sweden, said Mr Howard.

MAFF are unable to provide comparable statistics to show the level of salmonella in UK pigs, although 277 serious cases were reported last year.

His comments followed an outburst by opposition leader William Hague at the recent Conservative party conference, in Blackpool.

Mr Hague suggested imports of Danish bacon should be stopped to help British farmers who faced tougher welfare legislation.

The Danes reacted to this by repeating a statement which outlined the majority of farms supplying the UK, met similar welfare and production standards.