26 September 1997

Supermarket schemes ought to be replaced

THE Food Standards Agency should replace quality assurance and traceability schemes currently promoted by supermarkets.

So said Minister of State for Agriculture Jeff Rooker, speaking at one of the Spotlight on Profit seminars.

"Supermarkets are bound to want to do competitors down by saying ours is healthier, or we know where its been killed, and so on. Its down to the commercial, competitive pressures that supermarkets – who have their brand images to protect – impose on the market."

Dairy producers at the event were concerned about paying for MAFF inspections and being inspected as part of milk buyers quality assurance schemes. According to Mr Rooker, this is likely to continue until the food agency, which will be independent, is set up.

"We have to continue to inspect farms as when things go wrong, it is MAFFs responsibility. However, when the food standards agency is up and running, supermarkets should be able to say that they have traceability through that. Until then, the overlay of inspections is a consequence of commercial pressure."

He said the food standards agency, which was designed to increase consumer confidence, should be up and running by early to mid-1999.