7 March 1997

Stable-to-table scheme is needed

THE LIVESTOCK industry needs an integrated audited assurance scheme from stable to table to restore consumer confidence. Speaking at the conference Francis Anthony, president of the European Federation of Veterinarians, said consumers had to believe that the industry was on its side.

"Whats needed is a comprehensive plan to restore confidence in beef and the industry as a whole throughout the EU," he said.

He saw the need for an integrated scheme which took account of animal welfare and public health in food production from stable to table. Existing farm assurance schemes were not underwritten by one common code – we needed a national quality assurance scheme as a minimum. This should cover all stages of the food chain from primary production, to transport, processing and marketing.

"The lynch pin in all this was the vet,"he said. "Much of vet time is spent on fire brigade work and we should be replacing that with more preventative measures involving the vet and other farm advisors," he said.

The health of the animal and potential zoonotic risk is only monitored at the abattoir and he believed that was too late.

"It now is clear that food hygiene can no longer be a matter of simple inspection at the end of processing." He proposed the extension of ante mortem inspection back to the farm of origin.

Sue Rider

Here the vet responsible for herd health will also be responsible for surveillance and monitoring for zoonoses and transfer of this information to the point of slaughter. In the same way health information collected at the abattoir should be sent back up the chain to the farm of origin so the vet was made aware and could act on problems identified.

Meat should be labelled confirming certain parameters of the assurance scheme were being observed. "A prerequisite for a labelling system will be a foolproof identification system and the means to enforce it. To obtain consumer confidence, the labelling system must be transparent to the consumer and be uniform, at least in Europe," he said.

Francis Anthony…the livestock industry needs stable-to-table assurance.