26 March 1999

Give out the right message

OUR increasingly urbanised society has little or no experience of farming practice, making it vital to develop clear channels of communication between food providers and consumers.

MLC vet John Pratt told this weeks British Society of Animal Science conference in Scarborough, North Yorks, that many consumers are concerned about food production.

"They are deeply alarmed at a vocabulary including words such as large-scale units, intensive farming, food poisoning, antibiotic resistance, salmonella, hormones, prions, genetic modification and tuberculosis. But many shoppers are still far more interested in convenience and price than in quality and origin.

"It is important to develop clear channels of communication to consumers. The MLC is one of many organisations involved, but much more needs to be done.

"Farm assurance is a key area, but such schemes must be available at realistic cost to herd and flock owners," said Mr Pratt.

He also stressed that producers in assurance schemes must not be put at a competitive disadvantage compared with non-scheme members.

"They also have to compete in a market with imports that satisfy only the bare legal requirements, and achieve no independently audited standards of health, welfare or food safety." &#42