Bord Bia looks to clarify when and how quality mark is used

Following mixed responses from some quarters over the issue of Irish beef being moved to the UK for “further processing” before returning to Ireland, Bord Bia has moved to clarify when and how the Bord Bia quality mark can be used.

In a statement to AgriLand, Joe Burke, Bord Bia’s livestock sector manager, said: “Only beef coming from certified farms, processed by meat plants which are themselves members of the Meat Processor Quality Assurance Scheme (MPQAS), may be labelled with the Bord Bia quality mark.”

However, these plants are not limited to the Republic of Ireland, according to Burke.

In addition to the certified factories in the Republic of Ireland, there are a number of plants in Northern Ireland which are approved under MPQAS to slaughter cattle from Bord Bia quality assured farms in the Republic of Ireland, and for the resulting beef to carry the appropriate quality mark.

“This practice has been in place for many years and it represents an alternative selling outlet for Irish farmers, especially in the border region,” Burke added.

In terms of the rest of the UK, he highlighted that: “Similarly, there is a facility within MPQAS for retail packing plants outside of the Republic of Ireland to apply to join the scheme in order to be allowed to portion and pack quality assured Irish beef, and to label it with the Bord Bia quality mark in-market for retail customers.

According to Burke, plants in Northern Ireland and further afield “must demonstrate full compliance with the same traceability and labelling requirements at audit, before being permitted to apply the Bord Bia quality mark to the qualifying Irish beef product”.

At present, because normal operations of several Irish meat plants are constrained, some retail-packed product is being brought back into the Republic of Ireland from the UK, carrying the Bord Bia quality assurance mark, which has been prepared in this way.

Burke insists that a plant that is part of the MPQAS must first request permission from Bord Bia before the plant in question can put the quality mark on packaging.

Meat plants which are members of the MPQAS are scheduled for audits every 18 months, as well as at least one unannounced audit in each 18 month cycle.

“Members are required to demonstrate compliance with all requirements of standards, covering both product and process, with a rigorous emphasis on identification, traceability and reconciliation,” Burke said.

A list of plants, in the republic and abroad, which are members of the MPQAS, can be found here.