British start checks for illegal EU pork

A strategy to stop pork from illegal European Union farms entering the British food chain has begun this week.

The British pig industry has started checking for pork non-compliant with the sow stall ban, to ensure it does not enter the food chain.

More than 60% of EU countries have failed to comply with the rules of the sow stall ban, according to the National Pig Association (NPA), despite having 10 years’ notice. The NPA is now working with the UK government, with its ‘Exercise Compliance’ scheme, to stop lower-welfare pork making it from the Continent to supermarket shelves.

Regional manager for the NPA Lizzie Press explained the NPA believed British food companies making a pledge not to sell “illegal pork” had done so. She said: “But now we want to test those statements by tracing randomly selected packs back to their farms of origin.”

Commitment to the cause

As an example of this test, it visited two of Asda’s pork producers in the Netherlands. Press added: “Although we visited only a representative sample, it was clear both farms were fully compliant with the sow stalls ban and we were satisfied with the farm standards we observed.”

The Exercise Compliance scheme was started following the success the NPA had with its website ‘Wall of Fame’, where the UK’s top retailers and brands pledged to sell pork from sow stall-compliant farms. Companies on the Wall of Fame will be selected randomly and will have to prove they are sourcing correctly.

Press added: “I am sure the companies that have signed our Wall of Fame are as keen as we are to assure their customers of the traceability of the pork and pork products they import, particularly following the recent horsemeat scandal which has shaken consumers’ faith in the food chain.

“NPA has already made its random selection of imported products sold by companies that have signed the Wall of Fame pledge and will be sending out letters this week, asking them to carry out a full traceability exercise to confirm the products in question contain only legally-produced pork.”

Sow stall ban

Sow stalls were banned in the UK 14 years ago, but the EU did not introduce the ban for all EU farms until January this year. However, farmers were warned in 2003 of the implementation date. The ban is only partial, which means sow cannot be in stalls for more than 20% of their time.

Infraction proceedings have been started by the European Commission against the nine non-compliant countries. The countries include Denmark, Poland, Belgium, Greece, Ireland, Germany, France, Cyprus and Portugal. The NPA said: “But it is a long process which can take over a year. So it remains essential that sourcing continues to be robust and monitored.”