A rising tide of imports of pig meat is coming into the UK but much of it which claims to be produced to UK specifications is not, according to the British Pig Executive (BPEX). Figures produced in a recent report reveal that the number of pigs being produced abroad to UK specification is totally inadequate to meet the volume currently being imported.
According to BPEX, this means that much of the imported pig meat, which is claimed to be produced to UK standards, cannot actually be. Over the last five years, imports have increased substantially and those imports are dominated by loin cuts and legs for further processing.
Indeed, between 1998 and 2002, total pig meat imports increased by 273,000 tonnes, or 34 per cent. In the first four months of 2003 there has been a further rise of 29 per cent in fresh and frozen pork compared with a year earlier.
BPEX chairman Stewart Houston said: "As well as the issue about standards there is growing concern about accurate description of retail product both from the country of origin viewpoint and the accurate use of the British Meat Quality Standard Mark."
EFSIS (European Food Safety Inspection Service), which is responsible for auditing the British Meat Quality Standard Mark (QSM) for pork, has now been asked to draw up an enhanced protocol for auditing pork and pork products. "This is intended to be a much tougher auditing and traceability process than is currently used," said Houston.
The new measures will involve random checks, a more forensic approach that could take up to a whole day and backwards tracing, which means following a finished product back to the batch of production. Forwards tracing, involving the tracing of primal cuts to the finished retail product, will also be carried out.
The report is currently being made available to the industry, stakeholders and to the government. A copy of the report is available from the Meat and Livestock Commission (MLC).