Scottish farmers were yesterday told they should not rest on their laurels, believing that, with farm assurance schemes in operation, they were immune to future food scares.
SCOTTISH farmers were yesterday told they should not rest on their laurels, believing that, with farm assurance schemes in operation, they were immune to future food scares.
James Withers, chief executive of the umbrella organisation Scotland Food and Drink, urged them to take food assurance to the next step to ensure they were not caught in the headlights of some future problem on food quality or provenance.
Withers, a former top man at NFU Scotland, was addressing union members at their annual meeting in St Andrews when he recalled how badly the Scottish farming industry had been hit by food scares in the 1980s and 1990s.
He said he was not surprised about the revelations that were coming out now on meat contamination, saying it was brought about by a combination of downward price pressure and a lengthy supply chain.
Apart from a frustration that the horsemeat scandal had dragged down the overall reputation of red meat in the eyes of the consuming public, most of the union members saw the issue as an opportunity to promote their own produce and the traceability that came with it.
Union president Nigel Miller urged retailers and manufacturers to put the provenance of the produce they buy before profit. The reward would be the high levels of traceability and quality that their consumers expected and deserved.
“The clear message for retailers and food manufacturers out of this whole debacle is that food production must not be focussed purely on profit,” he said. “People clearly care about the provenance of their food. This damaging scandal has exposed the lengthy supply chains now involved in producing manufactured meat products. These now stretch from a Scottish supermarket freezer cabinet to processing sites in Ireland or France all the way to abattoirs in eastern Europe; the longer the chain, the more difficult the challenge in auditing that process.”
However, the backlash to the present food scare might also hit Scottish producers, with Jim McLaren, the chairman of the red meat promotional body, expressing his fear that the DNA testing of all produce could come at a high price.
He said this would endanger the ability of small-scale processors to survive in a very competitive market and this would be to the detriment of Scotland.