14 February 1997

Pasture-to-plate assurance scheme

UP to £3m has been raised to set up a UK quality assurance scheme to provide common standards on food safety.

Government is to match Meat and Livestock Commission funding by providing £1.5m support to set up Assured British Meat.

MLC beef strategy manager Chris Brown said talks had been taking place to standardise operating practices involving food safety across the food chain.

"The concept has been discussed from pasture to plate. One example where improvements could be made concerns dirty cattle entering abattoirs, which are a threat to food safety through carcass contamination."

The NFU, current farm assurance schemes in England, Scotland and Wales, the Livestock Auctioneers Association, UKASTA, the British Meat Manufacturers Association and the Institute of Grocery Distribution have been involved in the negotiations.

"We at the MLC hope to facilitate this development and hope industry will run it. Once up and running, Assured British Meat will look to incorporate current farm assurance schemes and strengthen them," added Mr Brown.

The need for a UK-wide food safety assurance scheme was highlighted by Martin van Zwanenberg, Marks and Spencer divisional director, at the NFUs traceability forum last week, who believes there are too many farm assurance schemes.

The company had set up its own beef select farm blueprint, involving 1200 farms, a small number of abattoirs and three processors after encountering quality problems in the early 1980s.