Supermarkets Respond to Union’s Traceability Challenge on Imported Pork

All major supermarkets have responded positively to the traceability challenge set by NFU Scotland last week on imported pork.

In its challenge, the Union presented managers at Tesco, Morrisons, Asda and Sainsbury’s supermarkets with the labels from imported pork products purchased in store and asked if an audit trail back to the farm of production was available. Being able to produce such a trail would reassure consumers and the industry that no illegally produced imported pork is appearing on UK supermarket shelves.

Major changes to pig welfare standards were introduced across Europe at the start of this year that significantly restrict the use of sow stalls on farms. The UK banned the use of such stalls 13 years ago and, since that time, all Scottish or UK pork, bacon and ham has been produced to this higher welfare standard.  

However, figure released this week reveal that only nine other member states are fully compliant with the rules and in France, Germany, Cyprus and Portugal – despite the legislation being in place for a month – the level of implementation of the new rules on sow stalls is less than 75 percent. As a result, thousands of pigs across Europe are still being produced every day in systems that have been outlawed.

In support of UK producers, major retailers have stated their intention not to stock imported pigmeat produced on non-compliant European farms.  The Union’s challenge gave them the opportunity to demonstrate that.

NFU Scotland’s Food Chain Relationships Manager, Wendy Fleming said:

“We are very encouraged by the level of engagement that we have had from Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Asda in taking up our challenge.  That information gathering exercise isn’t complete yet but all retailers have shown a willingness to take part.

“First to respond was Tesco which provided a thorough and robust paper trail that, using the labels, tracked the individual packs of Danish and Dutch pork bought in its Huntly store in Aberdeenshire all the way back to individual farms in those countries.  The information covered distribution, abattoir reports and copies of certification that the pig farmers who provided the pigs were meeting UK welfare standards.

“Having had time to study the detail, everything looks to be in order and we plan to take up the offer from Tesco for the Union to visit and examine its traceability systems in person.

“At Morrisons, unsmoked gammon grills labelled as ‘produce of the EU’ has been traced to 13 finishing farms in the Netherlands supplied by 17 breeding farms in the same country. Morrisons believe all farms are compliant with the new rules.  All farms are subject to formal audit and approval before joining the welfare programme and visited at least every 4 weeks by a vet. Independent verification and spot checks are in place to ensure the integrity of the system.
“Asda and Sainsbury’s have not met the deadline we set but we have been reassured by both that the tracing of the Danish, French and German pork on sale in their store is well underway and they have both committed to providing us with a full response in due course.  

“From a consumer and industry perspective, the initial responses from retailers to our challenge suggests that traceability around imports is in place and reassurances can be met.  Given recent events in the food sector, that is welcome.

“The results of our retailer challenge set us a further two tasks. We must look at import substitution and encourage those same retailers we have been working with to stock more Scottish or UK pork on their shelves.  At the same time, we need to drive demand.  Consumers want fresh, tasty, local produce on the shelves and Scottish pig producers can deliver on that.”

Notes to Editors

  • On Monday 14 January, NFU Scotland bough a selection of imported and UK pork products at Tesco, Asda, Morrisons, Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury’s stores.  No imported produce was found in M&S but imported pork from Denmark, Holland, France and Germany was available elsewhere.  It returned to those stores selling imports last week and asked store managers to start an audit trail to trace those products back to farms in their country of origin.
  • At the Asda store at Huntly, Aberdeenshire, NFUS bought pork loin steaks imported from France and Germany.  No audit trail on these products has been provided as yet but NFUS understands the process is underway.
  • At the Tesco store in Huntly, NFUS bought pork chops from Denmark and pork loin steaks from Holland.  Tesco has provided NFU Scotland with a full audit trail that tracks those individual packs through the store, the distribution system, the abattoir and back to the farm with certification identifying that individual farmers were producing pigs to UK welfare standards.
  • At the Sainsbury’s store at Kinross, NFUS bought boneless loin steaks from Denmark. An investigation of the audit chain is almost complete and Sainsbury’s has committed to providing NFUS with further information within 24 hours.
  • At the Morrisons store at The Gyle, near Edinburgh NFUS bought unsmoked gammon grills labelled as being produced in the EU from EU pork. Morrisons has traced the imported pork used to make this product to 13 finishing farms in the Netherlands. The pigs were supplied by 17 breeding farms in the Netherlands. All farms are compliant with council directive 2008/120/EC and are IKB certified. In addition, the farms operate in accordance with the processor’s own welfare programme, which applies additional controls including specific provisions for sow confinement (e.g sows are only permitted to be confined for ½ day after service). All farms are subject to formal audit and approval before joining the welfare programme, which is conditional on contractual acceptance of the programme’s requirements. Farms are visited at least every 4 weeks by a GVP-certificated vet. Independent verification (i.e. spot checks on a random sample of farms) arrangements are in place to ensure the integrity of the system.  The retailer has offered to explain to NFUS the elements of its traceability exercise that demonstrates the above.
  • EU Welfare legislation restricting the use of sow stalls on pig farms was introduced on 1 January 2013.  Despite several years to prepare, many countries have farms operating from non-compliant systems.  The latest compliance figures released by the European Commission this week are below.

Implementation of partial ban on sow stalls in EU member States (%)

Implementation of partial ban on sow stalls in EU member States

Bel – Belgium; Bul – Bulgaria; Cz – Czech Republic; Est – Estonia; Ire – Ireland; Gre – Greece; Esp – Spain; Fr – France; It – Italy; Lith – Lithuania; Lux – Luxembourg; Hun – Hungary; Mal - Malta; Pol – Poland; Port – Portugal; Rom – Romania; Sln – Slovenia; UK – United Kingdom; D – Germany; Swe – Sweden; NL – Netherlands; Svk – Slovakia; Cyp – Cyprus; Dk – Denmark; Aus – Austria; Fin – Finland; Lat – Latvia.


Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006


Date Published:

News Article No.: 09/13

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