10 July 1998

National assurance for meat edges closer still

FURTHER steps towards an industry-wide assurance scheme for meat in England and Wales were revealed at the show on Tuesday.

Farm minister, Jack Cunningham, announced the collaboration of Farm Assured British Beef and Lamb (FABBL) and Assured British Meat. In future, as and when FABBLs 20,000-plus members are inspected, they will also receive automatic ABM certification.

According to Ben Gill, NFU president, thats good news for farmers. The union was pleased that ABM had stuck to its pledge not to pile extra inspection costs onto the hard-pressed livestock sector. And he added that "substantial progress" was being made on moving towards single inspection of farms covering all assurance schemes.

Dr Cunningham said he was delighted that the two assurance organisations had reached agreement on working togetherWith the integration of FABBL, the task ahead was to develop the initiative with the other sectors of the meat industry, he said.

ABM, officially launched in January and chaired by former Scottish farm minister Lord Lindsay, anticipates releasing its standards for each link of the production chain, which FABBL will adopt, in the autumn.

Lord Lindsay said the link with FABBL was an extremely important first step in delivering truly integrated industry-wide safety assurance.

John Irish, FABBL chairman, admitted that the organisation had gone through some difficult times in recent years, with criticism about the merit and independence of its standards. But he believed the collaboration with ABM would make FABBL "much more relevant".

North of the border, the Scotch Quality Beef and Lamb Association (SQBLA) is determined to retain its independence. Lord Lindsay said arrangements were being negotiated so that ABM and SQBLA standards were mutually recognised.

That should mean that no additional inspections are needed for assured animals moving between farms across the border.