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It’s just not British!

The British meat industry continued to exploit its improved public perception post-Horsegate but the main news to ‘kick off’ Red Tractor Week in September was that ‘isotope profiling’ had identified a pack of Tesco ‘British’ labelled pork, which was not all that it seemed.

British farming and especially meat industry interests have continued to promote themselves as a more trusted source of food supply, following the ‘Horsegate’ debacle earlier this year.

During August, the National Farmers Union launched a 'Back British Farming' charter, to try and redress the country’s trade imbalance in food. Their publicity highlighted that “British food supplies would run out on 14th August, if all the food produced in Britain was stored and eaten from 1st January onwards.”

They called on government, retailers, the foodservice industry and consumers to ‘Back British Farming’ and sign the charter. Waitrose, the Co-op and the National Pig Association were quick to oblige. The NPA also highlighted that a number of retailers had reduced their facings of British pig meat in recent months and this may result in the market heading towards the next "new scandal".

The 'Trust the Tractor' campaign has been running for much of the summer and 'Red Tractor Pork' has been a prominent supporter. On 16th September, this year’s 'Red Tractor Week' took to the airwaves with the campaign spokesman Alex James, musician and recently turned farmer and cheese maker.

The week got away with a ‘bang’ following the announcement via a BPEX Press Release that a new series of testing, called Stable Isotope Reference Analysis (SIRA), would be introduced alongside the existing auditing carried out under the Red Tractor Farm Assurance Pigs Scheme. SIRA is able to link a sample of pork or bacon to the geographical area of production, via isotope profiling, and, in particular, to provide analytical confirmation that the product was produced from British pigs, with a high degree of probability.

The initial analyses, conducted under the scrutiny of BBC ‘You and Yours’, found that one of the samples, a British-labelled Tesco Pork Chop, was almost certainly of Dutch provenance. The product was supplied to Tesco from Cranswick, from pork sourced from FA Gill.
Needless to say, the discovery provoked major media coverage, not to say considerable embarrassment to Tesco and their pig meat supply chain. Assured Food Standards described the matter as an “isolated case” attributable to “human error”. A selection of the media coverage may be accessed via these links (the BBC ‘You and Yours’ coverage may only be accessed via a UK registered IP address):

Pic: Red Tractor Week