Tacon named new chairman of Red Tractor scheme

Former groceries code adjudicator Christine Tacon has been appointed as the new head of Red Tractor.

Ms Tacon has been named as the chairman of Assured Food Standards (ASF), the company that operates the Red Tractor Assurance scheme. 

She will take up the role on 1 January 2021, replacing Dame Lucy Neville-Rolfe, whose term ended last month.

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Baroness Neville-Rolfe announced that she would step down at the end of her three-year term on 12 November.

The announcement came days after Farmers Weekly exclusively revealed that, as a Conservative peer, she voted against amendments in the Agriculture Bill tabled to protect British farmers from imports produced to standards not permitted in the UK. Her actions sparked a huge backlash among farmers.

Until October 2020, Ms Tacon was a government regulator responsible for overseeing the implementation of the Groceries Supply Code of Practice by large grocery retailers, who are designated by the Competition and Markets Authority, in their dealings with direct suppliers.

BBC role

She currently serves as the chairman of the BBC Rural Affairs Committee and MDS – a management training scheme for the food and fresh produce industry. She is also a director of the AF Group, a £250m purchasing co-operative for agri-businesses.

Ms Tacon started her professional career as an engineer and then moved into marketing, working at organisations including Mars, Vodafone and Anchor (now Fonterra). For more than 10 years, she ran the Co-operative Group’s farming business – the largest of its kind in the UK. In 2004, she was awarded a CBE for services to agriculture.

Ms Tacon said: “I’m really looking forward to joining Red Tractor. This role builds on my experience in farming, the food chain, working with government and, most of all, with consumers.

“With uncertainty on standards of food imported into the UK post-Brexit, this is a great time to be working on British standards and ensuring they are fit for purpose for all its stakeholders.”

A spokesman for the ownership body of Red Tractor, comprising farming unions, the AHDB, Dairy UK and the British Retail Consortium, responsible for the appointment, said: “Red Tractor’s standards are the bedrock of British agriculture. They have helped establish the UK’s food and farming industry as the benchmark for quality across the world.

“Now more than ever is the time to demonstrate strong leadership, to protect the integrity of the food chain and the agricultural standards that we have built up in Britain over the decades.”

‘Fly the flag’

He added: “Christine’s proven credentials, and a career that spans across the supply chains of food and farming, will be an enormous asset in helping Red Tractor fly the flag for our industry and to deliver on its core purpose to reassure consumers.”

Assured Food Standards is a not-for-profit company, owned and created by the British farming and food industry, but operating independently.  

AFS own and operate Red Tractor Assurance, the largest farm and food assurance scheme in the UK. Established in 2000, it has grown to become a world-leader in food chain assurance and uniquely covers food safety, traceability, animal welfare and environmental protection.

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