Farming minister highlights careers in food

The meat industry, along with the wider food sector, is the UK’s largest manufacturing business and should not be overlooked, food and farming minister George Eustice told delegates to the British Meat Processors Association’s (BMPA) annual conference.

Speaking to the conference in London this week, Eustice said more should be done to encourage people to think of careers within the sector as the food industry had a strong future ahead of it.

Peter Mitchell, the new BMPA president, opening the conference, questioned the government’s commitment to removing the burden of regulation. He said: “We hear a lot about government commitment to reduce the regulatory burden on business, but we don’t see much of that in our industry.”

However, Eustice had little comfort to offer on the issue: “While we say we’re cutting things, I’m aware it doesn’t feel that way on the front line. In Defra, 80% of regulations come from Europe and we have limited ability to remove them and it’s very long winded to reform them. However, we should also recognise the value of [regulation] in maintaining confidence in our products.”

He said maintaining trust in the industry was vital, particularly if the UK was to continue to expand into the export markets. He said the issues raised by the horsemeat scandal needed to be dealt with and police were continuing to investigate the situation. He also claimed a number of arrests and ongoing prosecution showed that was having an impact.

He said when it came to the country of origin labelling (COOL) debate in Europe, the UK had managed to get a good set of outcomes from those talks, bringing clarity to the issues surrounding where animals are reared and slaughtered. However, he said the idea of extending COOL to processed products such as ready meals was not practical and could increase costs by 50% with a fair proportion of that being in inspection and enforcement.

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