Horsemeat: Meat industry looks to reassure

Meat leaders are to take out adverts across national media at the weekend to reassure and reinforce the benefits of assurance programmes with consumers in the wake of the escalating horsemeat scandal.

Speaking at the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board’s (AHDB) Outlook Conference yesterday, John Godfrey, chairman, said: “I’d like to announce that both Eblex and Bpex will be taking out ads that feature Red Tractor and the Eblex Quality Standard marks and the ads will reassure consumers about the stringent standards on products under those assurance schemes. At least AHDB is doing something.”

Meanwhile, environment secretary Owen Paterson has returned from a meeting in Brussels to discuss the ongoing scandal. He said agreement had been reached on a number of key issues to avoid such an incident happening again.

He said: “Importantly, we will introduce a three-month programme of random DNA testing of beef products, whether made in the EU or imported from elsewhere. It will begin 1 March and the first results will be published on 15 April.

“Secondly, we agreed a new intelligence-sharing system so that new information about the current investigations can be shared immediately. This will enable other member states to act straight away if they have any suspicions that food businesses are not playing by the rules. It will also allow Europol to co-ordinate investigations into criminal activity.”

He said the scandal had also highlighted the need for transparency and as a result, it had “accelerated” the need to publish the European Commission’s recommendations on labelling origin on all processed meat.

He added: “As we requested, what we’ve agreed will now be ironed out in an emergency meeting of food experts on Friday and in the next meeting of EU agriculture ministers on 25/26 February.”