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Confusion over butchers rules unnecessary

Date Published: 08/06/2006

Confusion among butchers over organic regulations is unfortunate and unnecessary, according to a leading organic certifier.

Organic Farmers & Growers (OF&G) has always maintained that the rules applied to the slaughter and cutting of meat are straightforward and that the costs of certification need not be high.

But OF&G Chief Executive, Richard Jacobs, feels this message may have got lost in the wake of media coverage that has focused on confusion in the retail meat trade.

He said: “It’s a real shame that mixed messages about this are reaching butchers and their customers. It is a pretty straightforward matter and, if they do have certification, butchers can then take advantage of this by clearly displaying their certificate of organic status and perhaps a sign to make it clear to their customers.

“We are happy to supply a laminated sign to our licensees to make it abundantly clear that they have been inspected and licensed to handle and sell organic meat. The more butchers who do this the better informed the public will be and the better placed the butcher will be to maximise the return on their investment in certification.”

In essence the rules are very clear. A butcher who is selling pre-packaged and labeled organic produce does not require certification. They just need to be clear that their supplier is properly certified by ensuring they see their certificate.

If they are cutting and packaging organic meat themselves, or selling it unpackaged from the counter, they do need to be certified in order to call the produce organic.

Mr Jacobs added: “The rules are there to ensure shoppers can be confident that what they are buying is organic. Gaining organic status involves demonstrating to an inspector that organic meat is handled and stored separately from non-organic and that there is no risk of substitution of non-organic where the customer expects they are buying organic.

“Once a butcher has satisfied the inspector and has been issued with a certificate, this can then be checked and enforced by spot inspections to ensure all proper procedures are being followed. These can be by either the certifying body, Trading Standards or both.

“While this may sound onerous to some, in reality it’s just about good organisation and record keeping. The costs, certainly with OF&G, are on the low side of a few hundred pounds and the returns for the investment and small effort can be substantial.”

Anyone who would like to know more about becoming organically certified can contact the Organic Farmers & Growers Processor Department on 0845 3305122 extension 230 for advice.