15 June 2001
Fraud threat to assurance scheme

By Alistair Driver

ORGANISERS of a farm assurance scheme are acting to save its credibility after a serious case of fraud was revealed on satellite television.

Assured British Pigs was forced to tighten scheme rules after thousands of non-assured pigs fed on swill were sold as assured to a supermarket supplier.

Wiltshire-based WE & DT Cave, which supplied the pigs for Tesco, had applied to join ABPs British Quality Assured Pigs scheme.

WE & DT Cave was issued with registration numbers, which it then used as proof that it was complying with scheme rules and being regularly inspected.

The company supplied non-assured swill-fed pigs to an abattoir supplying Tesco between January 2000 and February 2001.

But Tesco had already banned pigs fed on swill.

False paperwork backed the fraud, which went undetected until the abattoir carried out a random audit on a piece of meat.

The pig farm and a contract farmer who fattened the pigs for it have both been suspended from the scheme.

ABP was informed about the fraud on 1 May, nine days before it was reported by Sky News.

Pigs sold under the BQAP mark qualify for the National Farmers Union little red tractor scheme designed to promote high-quality food.

The supplier could now face legal action, said BQAP scheme manager Marcus Wood, who admitted that the case could have serious implications.

“It is a terribly bad thing that has happened,” he said.

“We cannot pretend that this sort of thing does not undermine all the things we are trying to do with farm assurance and the quality standard mark.”

At a board meeting on Tuesday (12 June), ABP introduced a series of measures designed to prevent a repeat of the incident.

With immediate effect, all BQAP farms will have to become fully compliant with scheme rules before they are issued with registration numbers.

Abattoirs and pig marketing companies in the scheme will be given a list of farms who qualify as BQAP suppliers. The list will appear on a new website.

Furthermore, ABP will consult the industry on issuing a tattoo to individual farms that pigs sold under the scheme will have to carry.

But Mr Wood said there were no plans to step up audits and inspections despite the failure of the fraud to be picked up for so long.

The other measures would be sufficient to prevent a repeat, he said.

ABP banned swill-fed pigs earlier this year before the practice was outlawed because of fears that it caused Britains foot-and-mouth crisis.

FREE NEWS UPDATE
CLICK HERE to receive FWis FREE new daily email newsletter to keep up-to-date with the latest news of foot-and-mouth and other farming-related stories

Foot-and-mouth – confirmed outbreaks
Foot-and-mouth – FWi coverage