Blind eye can no longer be turned to serious farm assurance problems in Republic of Ireland

IRELAND - Continued denial by Bord Bia , and some supermarkets, that there are serious lapses in the administration of the Beef Quality Assurance Scheme in the Republic of Ireland (ROI) is undermining the credibility of farm assurance within the UK.
calendar icon 9 October 2006
clock icon 3 minute read
So says the National Beef Association which suspects that the bulk of beef imported into the UK from the ROI is not farm assured and is questioning the readiness of multiple retailers to continue to accept it while at the same time insisting that domestic cattle processed by their suppliers are taken off accredited farms.

“Perhaps 60 per cent of Irish beef sold through the major UK multiples may not be farm assured. We have been told that 35 per cent of cattle in the ROI are needed to supply British supermarkets but less than 15 per cent of national production is from farms that have been properly accredited to BQAS after being audited to EN45011 standards by approved inspectors,” explained NBA chairman, Duff Burrell .

“We have asked Bord Bia whether this is correct and even though our first request was made seven weeks ago it has still to reply to our very straightforward questions on the number of farms that are fully BQAS accredited, the proportion of Irish output they supply, and how much of this is exported to the UK.”

“At the same time we advised the major supermarkets which sell Irish beef, Asda , Sainsbury and Tesco, that there was a problem with farm assurance cover in the ROI. One company thanked us for the information and after authorising an independent inspection of its Irish suppliers told us it is satisfied that the beef it is currently importing is taken off cattle from EN45011 audited farms.”

“However the others, like Bord Bia , have not responded even though the absence of assurance would undermine their due diligence obligations and raise questions about an even handed approach to farmers finishing cattle for their UK suppliers.”

“In an effort to prise an answer from Bord Bia , Euro MP, Martin Callanan , who is a member of the European Parliament's Environment, Health and Food Safety Committee, is to table a Parliamentary question requiring details of the number of Irish beef farms that are EN45011 accredited and the proportion of Irish output they produce.”

“Hopefully this will reveal the true depth of the farm assurance problem in the ROI and just how significant the lapses that have already taken place, and are still taking place within BQAS really are.”

“Here in the UK some 90-95 per cent of beef production is from fully accredited farms monitored through ABM, QMS, FQAS or FAWL and if supermarkets continue to demand that they are served with farm assured beef by their domestic suppliers then they must be equally robust about setting the same standards for imports.”

“It would be quite wrong of them to turn a blind eye to the severe farm inspection and accreditation problems experienced by Bord Bia which make it impossible to guarantee that Irish beef imported into the UK is from cattle finished on fully assured farms,” Mr Burrell added.

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