The NBA claimed that the farm assurance process in the Republic of Ireland was under strain and, as a result, imported beef could not be guaranteed to meet the assurance standards supermarkets, including Asda and Sainsbury's, demand of their suppliers.
Robert Forster, chief executive of the NBA, said: "The inspection and accreditation that supports the Beef Quality Assurance Scheme (BQAS) in the ROI has been, and remains, incapable of establishing sufficient EN45011 standard farm assurance cover to ensure that all deliveries into the UK, which account for at least 30% of ROI production, meet the same EN45011 assurance standards that are demanded of UK farmers under Assured British Meat (ABM)."
However, Michael Murphy of Bord Bia, the Irish Food Board, refuted that claim, stating that while the industry in Ireland was going through a transition period, following a revision of the country's assurance scheme to attain the EN45011 standard, he said there was no problem: "All beef supplied to UK supermarkets is fully quality assured. The NBA is suggesting that we're in a bit of a vacuum, but that couldn't be further from the truth."
Forster also claimed: "The inspection and accreditation process is currently in suspense because EFSIS, which ran the inspection service on behalf of Bord Bia's accreditation unit, parted company earlier this year and the replacement company, South West Services of Cork, has still to set up its inspection service."
Forster said that only 5,000 Irish farms had been inspected under BQAS in the first year of operation, out of a total of 80,000 farms recorded as keeping beef cows.
He said: "It strains credibility to the extreme to think that beef from the widely scattered, and limited number, of ROI holdings that remain fully EN45011 accredited is being channelled, virtually exclusively, through Sainsbury's or Asda, and that all beef imported from the ROI by Asda or Sainsbury's is farm assured.