Updated 18.30, November 14.
Food Standards Scotland (FSS) has confirmed that there is no current investigation into the Scottish beef industry following reports over the weekend that it was investigating the possibility that Irish beef was being re-packaged with a Scottish label.
It had been reported that FSS was investigating the possibility that Irish beef, along with product from England and other EU regions, was being re-packaged with a Scottish label. However, this is not the case, FSS has confirmed.
Speaking to Scotland’s The Courier newspaper, FSS Intelligence Manager Duncan Smith, said that his team had evidence that such practises are being carried out, possibly by a number of factories in Scotland.
He is reported to have said that “foreign meat is coming into the country, getting processed then getting put out to customers as premium Scottish beef”.
However, following these reports, Ian McWatt, Director of Operations at FSS has said that the body can confirm that there is no current investigation into the Scottish beef industry and no suggestion of any wrong-doing.
“It is important to understand that the Scottish Food Crime and Incidents Unit (SFCIU) receives regular claims from people alleging fraud involving different food types and this is exactly what it was set up to look at.”
The unit’s normal process is to carefully consider how credible and robust these claims are and only once credibility is established would an investigation commence.
“These initial steps to assess credibility are vital as, for various reasons, different parts of the food industry including the meat industry, can be subject to unfounded allegations.
“In the case of the Scottish beef industry, the work of the unit delivers an important role on top of the measures already in place to ensure the public have full confidence in the products they buy.
“The unit works closely with a range of organisations in the beef industry to support the measures in place to protect its reputation and integrity,” he said.
Meanwhile, Jim McLaren, Chairman of Quality Meat Scotland, also responding to reports, said that it is important to recognise that Scotland’s red meat supply chain is one of the most regulated in the world and those who work in the industry take pride in the traceability underpinning the industry and the integrity of beef from Scotland.
It is vital the quality reputation of Scotland’s beef is not undermined in any way – if Food Standard Scotland’s Crime Unit has any evidence at any time that any isolated case of poor practice is taking place they will have our industry’s 100% support that action is taken very quickly to stamp this out.
“Our understanding is that the FSS Crime Unit is currently looking into the credibility of one or two claims of poor practice – there is no suggestion of a formal investigation or actual wrong-doing.
“It is also important to bear in mind that our industry is frequently subjected to unfounded allegations from those with an anti-red meat agenda or from disgruntled former employees,” he said.
Commenting on the reports earlier today, a spokesperson for the National Farmers’ Union in Scotland said that the Scottish red meat industry – from farmers to processors – works very hard to produce top quality beef which has earned a global reputation for taste and traceability.
“That hard won reputation for Scotch Beef is sacrosanct.”
The spokesperson said that the Food Standards Scotland Crime Unit, when established earlier this year, received strong support from NFUs and other stakeholders.