Morton heads up new food integrity assurance board

The new body set up to make farm assurance accreditation an all-Scottish affair is ready for business as it tools up to take on the assessment of the Quality Meat Scotland schemes in April.

Uel Morton
Uel Morton

The Food Integrity Assurance (FIA) business is as an off-shoot of SAOS - the umbrealla organisation for farm co-operatives – but the organisation said that, like Scot EID which recently took control of the cattle passport application and movement data base this side of the border, it will be run as an autonomous affair with its own board, management team and independent accreditation through the national accreditation body, UKAS.

The organisation’s board of directors will be chaired by former QMS chief executive, Uel Morton, who has extensive knowledge of the farming and food sector and an appreciation of the vital role farm assurance has played in underpinning Scottish brands.

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He is joined on the board by arable farmer, Anne Rae MacDonald; Osla Roebuck, Dunbia's business PR director in the UK; Louise Welsh, the Food Standards Scotland deputy chair; and assurance and accreditation specialist, Steve Belton. Completing the board will be dairy farmer and SAOS vice chair, Rory Christie and SAOS chief executive, Tim Bailey.

The FIA will be managed by Stephen Sanderson, a former farm manager, who has worked as a farm assessor and more recently gained experience in operational and technical management roles across a range of agricultural schemes and standards, including QMS, SQC and Red Tractor Dairy.

The organisation said that other key staff had been recruited, while 45 experienced farm assessors had signed up with more set to take up posts in April.

Sanderson said that FIA’s key priorities would be to deliver a farmer-focused service, with good two-way communications and a focus on the practical elements with less paperwork.

He added that FIA would also ensure that where farmers were certified to more than one scheme, for example QMS and SQC, or QMS and Red Tractor Dairy, they would continue to benefit from one joint assessment and the associated discount.

Commenting on separate plans revealed by rural affairs cab-sec Mairi Gougeon last week to create a new Scottish Veterinary Service, the British Veterinary Association said it saw both ‘advantages and potential risks’ in such a move.

Romain Pizzi, BVA Scottish branch president, said that the BVA was keen to help shape the plans.

“In Scotland we pride ourselves on high welfare, high quality agricultural produce so there are real opportunities for a more Scotland-centric approach that can really focus on our own animal health and welfare priorities.

“But we know that diseases and animal welfare problems don’t respect borders and so it will be critical that there are systems in place for a new service to collaborate and liaise with the rest of the UK, and beyond, on disease surveillance, data collection, and information sharing.

“Veterinary expertise must be at the heart of any new service and we look forward to engaging with Scottish Government.”

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