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OF&G comment on planned ITV programme

Date Published: 11/06/2007

Organic Farmers & Growers has responded to allegations made by ITV’s Tonight Programme relating to the health and welfare of organic poultry:

Organic Farmers & Growers has been made aware of allegations contained against one of its licensees in the Tonight Programme. Unfortunately ITV has repeatedly refused to allow OF&G to see this footage prior to the programme being broadcast.

However, the farm in question has been inspected by OF&G on a number of occasions both in the month prior to these allegations and immediately upon these concerns being raised. No evidence has ever been found to suggest anything other than this being a good example of an organic poultry producer, working to (and in fact beyond) all of the legally enforced standards.

OF&G has no way of verifying the methods used to obtain the footage being used by ITV or to confirm that it was taken at the farm in question. While watching the footage we must bear in mind that it will inevitably be of birds which have been startled by strangers with cameras and lights.

Claims of rat infestation contained in the programme have been disproved (the farm uses high quality bedding containing SUNFLOWER HUSKS for the birds to peck and scratch at, which do appear like rat droppings).

Further, OF&G is considerably concerned that the footage was apparently obtained in a way which could easily have been a threat to the bio-security of the location filmed. According to ITV’s dates some was taken while an active avian influenza outbreak was under way in this part of the country (though it is accepted that the farm in question was not immediately within a restricted or surveillance area). There is no way of knowing where the intruders went prior to their incursions on the farm or where they went after their visits and whether they observed proper procedure.

Organic Farmers & Growers rigorously applies the EU and UK organic standards without fear or favour. Indeed, it would be safe to say that no certifying body is more stringent in its inspection and licensing processes.

In light of these allegations OF&G will continue to monitor the farm in question closely and would not tolerate any breach of the organic regulations by this or any other producer.

Organic consumers must be able to trust the food they buy, which is produced with the key concerns of organics, welfare and sustainability, at its heart. The organic standards are clear, robust and being further enhanced on an on-going basis.

One of the themes of the ITV programme appears to be that the organic standards are being altered or weakened by certification bodies. This is a fundamental misconception (which has been pointed out to the producers prior to the programme’s broadcast). The organic standards are laid down in law and no weakening or altering of them is permitted by any certification body.

OF&G cannot comment on the results of health tests carried out by and reported in the programme as OF&G is not a scientific body. However there must be some questions as regards the size of the sample. A more thorough examination of this area by the relevant authorities would be welcomed.

It should be stressed that no routine use of antibiotics (for growth promotion or any other purpose) is permitted by the organic standards. Veterinary drugs may only being given when an animal is ill and to fail to do so would harm its health and welfare. When drugs are given the animal is withdrawn from the organic system for twice as long as would be the case in non-organic farming.

OF&G can only express its disappointment that the Tonight Programme has chosen to not show the footage it has obtained to us, even though it has shown it to other people and organisations (including other media) prior to broadcast.