22 October 1999

Lay off or well tell on you, Danes tell pig men

By Simon Wragg

THE Danish Bacon and Meat Council has said that it will be forced to release potentially damaging salmonella statistics if British pig industry leaders and politicians continue to paint Danish pigmeat as an inferior product.

John Howard, head of marketing for the Danish Bacon & Meat Council, told farmers weekly that the Danes would be forced to "defend their corner" if unwarranted attacks on Danish bacon continued.

While the Danes acknowledged and accepted they still had some ground to cover to voluntarily meet legislation imposed on UK producers, they claimed their industry was well ahead of the UK in monitoring and controlling salmonella. Danish figures showed that about 1% of all pork samples showed its presence 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 £8m-£10m (90% is paid by producers). The level of mandatory measures – which see producers fined up to £3.60 a pig if salmonella levels are not reduced – are only equalled in Sweden, claimed Mr Howard.

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

"I will say that we have no wish to bring the [salmonella] argument into the consumer arena, not unless we feel it necessary to defend our corner against attacks," said Mr Howard.

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