28 November 1997

More FABBL inspections

THE revamped Farm Assured British Beef and Lamb (FABBL) scheme was launched this week in response to claims that its farm inspections were too infrequent and less than rigorous.

Until recently, abattoirs and auction markets were able to join FABBL on a corporate basis and then inspect their own suppliers. But corporate membership will now be phased out with independent annual inspections introduced, said the schemes new chairman, John Irish.

From January, membership will be open only to individual farmers. New members will pay £85 a year, while existing members renewing their subscriptions will pay £75-80 a year. FABBL aims to double its 22,000 membership within 12 months.

NFU president, Sir David Naish, welcomed the move to make farm assurance more accountable. "Some of the more recalcitrant farmers may see this as no more than a building in of costs and bureaucracy into the system," he said. "But we have to start somewhere and farmers must be committed to producing a product in which the consumer has confidence."

But some meat processors expressed fears than many farmers would be reluctant to sign up to FABBL – especially if they had to pay for it themselves.

One abattoir has already found a way round the abolition of the corporate scheme. Anglo Beef Processors has pledged to fund individual subscriptions for more than 2000 of its beef and lamb suppliers. In return, ABP is demanding speedy inspection visits to the farms which it signs up.

But Andrew Chitty of the Federation of Fresh Meat Wholesalers said all membership fees should be paid by individual farmers.

Johann Tasker