Thursday, 7 March 2013

Assuring parliamentarians about the provenance of fresh meat

There’s no substitute for gaining a broader understanding of a specific issue or topic than to talk to the experts who deal with them day in, day out.

This week the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for beef and lamb met for the first time since the horsemeat scandal hit the headlines, prompting a lively discussion on the aforementioned issue and other topics, including labelling and desinewed meat (DSM).

The meeting in Portcullis House, Westminster, was attended by MPs Neil Parish, Sir Jim Paice, Bill Wiggin and Roger Williams, and peers Lord Hoyle and the Countess of Mar.

EBLEX’s marketing manager (Quality Schemes) Laura Bishop gave a presentation on assurance schemes and the importance of looking for labels such as the Quality Standard Mark (QSM) and Red Tractor for peace of mind about the provenance of the fresh meat you buy – a message EBLEX has been pushing for some time but which has been ramped up in recent weeks, for obvious reasons. Listening to details of a number of areas such as the benefits of the scheme, membership, auditing and future plans, parliamentarians showed a strong level of engagement in the work we are doing in this field.

EBLEX senior regional manager Dr Phil Hadley also gave an insight into DNA testing in ensuring product authenticity and underpinning supply chains, which has been the subject of an EBLEX industry demonstration project since April 2012. He added that EBLEX would have to consider all information available, including the results of its own commissioned DNA sampling, to decide if and at what level DNA sampling has a place within the QSM scheme on a permanent basis.

Both presentations prompted a number of questions from participants and responses from Laura and Phil, as well as EBLEX sector director Nick Allen and head of trade development, Peter Hardwick, who also attended the meeting.

Importantly, Nick reiterated that ‘horsegate’ was not about British farmers or British farming and assurance schemes like QSM and Red Tractor provide the ideal opportunity to talk about high standards of fresh meat production.

And while the prominence of the horse meat issue may well have shifted from the front pages, interest in the topic remains strong. This was again highlighted after the APPG meeting with Peter Hardwick being interviewed for Ukranian TV in Parliament Square on that very subject.

The importance of keeping everyone fully informed of the facts about assured, fresh meat and to look for assurance labels for peace of mind about traceability and provenance remains high on the public and political agenda and we are continuing to work hard to get the assurance message out through all available channels, from meetings with MPs, to newspaper adverts, social media, television interviews and newspaper column inches.

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