TIME TO GET BACK TO BASICS ON FOOD, FUW LEADER WARNS LOCAL AND HEALTH AUTHORITIES
The horsemeat scandal has shown it is time to get back to basics by respecting our food, our food producers and, above all, our consumers, Farmers' Union of Wales president Emyr Jones stressed today.
"Making sure all labelling meets the high standards of Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) Welsh Beef and Welsh Lamb would mark a significant step towards achieving this," he added after revealing he had written to all Welsh local authority and health board chief executives.
In his letter, Mr Jones stated the revelations regarding horsemeat entering a variety of food chains, including some for which local authorities were responsible, caused significant anger amongst Welsh farmers.
The issue highlighted the potential dangers - in terms of fraudulently misleading consumers and threats to human health - of procurement policies which did little more than pay lip-service to quality and provenance.
The letter added that FUW members reacted angrily to recent revelations in relation to the BBC series Operation Hospital Food, and claims made during the One Show, that Welsh hospital suppliers were unable to source Welsh Lamb despite Welsh Lamb being routinely supplied to some English Health Boards.
"For many years, the FUW has highlighted the direct contrast between Welsh Government food strategies aimed at supporting and boosting Welsh produce and the Welsh economy, and procurement processes implemented at every level of Welsh government which fly in the face of those strategies and do anything but lead by example," Mr Jones stated.
"While public procurement law has consistently been used as a scapegoat for those authorities supplying non-Welsh produce to Welsh consumers, such arguments do not stand up to scrutiny, particularly when one considers that authorities and educational bodies across the EU are able to specify local and quality produce - including through clauses which allow quality Welsh Lamb to be supplied in Roman schools - during the procurement process.
"The ultimate irony is that our children may have been regularly eating New Zealand lamb and horsemeat labelled as beef, despite being surrounded by Welsh sheep and cattle reared in accordance with strict traceability and welfare rules.
"Given the above, the FUW believes that all those involved in supply chains, including local and health authorities, must reassess the way in which they procure food; in essence, the revelations of recent months must be regarded as a warning about the dangers of pursuing previous policies, and a turning point which results in a refocus on provenance, quality and traceability."