8 October 1999

Pigmeat action pledge

FARM minister Nick Brown has pledged to bring in tough new labelling rules to end confusion over the country of origin of pigmeat sold in British supermarkets.

The guidelines would be enforceable by trading standards officers and were suggested by Mr Brown at a meeting on Tuesday with pig industry leaders.

At present, the country of origin is often unclear as imported pigmeat can be labelled British if it is processed in the UK.

The minister will hold further meetings with the catering and retail industries to reinforce the message and see what action they will take.

On the "BSE tax" – knock-on costs from the BSE crisis – the minister promised an urgent investigation and will report back to the pig industry next week.

National Pig Association chairman Graham England said: "We need to find out if were being discriminated against.

"Is it fair that we have to pay "BSE taxes" when it has no connection with the pig industry? Its a public food safety issue, but we must carry it.

"If Belgian farmers get state aid for dioxin, why cant we for BSE?"

Mr Brown also said he recognised the concern that the expected price premium, when Britain introduced the stall-and-tether ban this year, had not materialised.

But the minister made it clear that financial aid from the government to help the industry through its current crisis was not an option.

Meanwhile pig welfare standards in Britain were this week praised by the RSPCA and Compassion in World Farming.

Both groups are campaigning for retailers and caterers to sell only non-stall-and-tether-produced pigmeat.