13 August 1999
BPISG to challenge supermarkets
By Peter Crichton
THE British Pig Industry Support Group (BPISG) is to put a series of food safety and welfare challenges to all the major supermarkets as far as all their stocks of pigmeat are concerned.
There is growing frustration over the continuing effect of cheaper imports, which are holding down UK producer prices, claims the BPISG.
The action will take the form of purchases of imported and home produced ham and bacon at 40 selected sites throughout the country.
All the major food retailers, including Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury and Morriso, will be targeted.
Wrappers from these purchases will be mailed to the appropriate supermarket bosses, demanding to know the origin of the product, including the original source.
At the same time, the BPISG audit request will require an assurance from these retailers that the production standards of any imports match those applied in the UK.
A high proportion of pig production in other EU countries still includes systems banned in the UK.
BPISG members are confident that many of the supermarkets will be forced to concede that some of their imports do not match up to the tight UK specification, as a result.
Production standards in the UK are among the highest in the EU with no meat and bonemeal in feed as well as a ban on tethers, stalls and castration.
At the same time, there is still the shadow of the Belgian dioxin scandal hanging over imports from the Low Countries.
UK producers claim that if retailers continue to buy from sources abroad where cheaper and more intensive production systems mean a lower cost per kilo, the domestic industry will continue to shrink and will never be able to compete on price alone.
They also claim that the collapse of the UK industry will deny the consumer the freedom of choice to buy a welfare-friendly product fed on natural ingredients.
This shows that only 54% of all bacon is labelled British (down 4% since April) and 57% of all ham (down 12% since April).
At the same time, the use of the “Q Mark of Distinction” has failed to make the impact claimed by the Meat and Livestock Commission when launched.
Only 32% of all British bacon and 33% of ham carries the mark according to the survey.