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Horse meat fraud: Who can you trust?

Could this be the time when local butchers and a little red tractor logo come into their own?
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Sheena Meredith

15th February 2013 - Although there is no suggestion that food safety in the UK has been compromised by horse meat getting into the food chain, there are clear signs that consumers are unhappy by being defrauded.

A poll for Sky News carried out by You Gov this week found that of the one in five people who are choosing different products because of the scandal, 58% said they had completely abandoned processed meats.

A third of the nearly 2,000 people surveyed said they had stopped buying cheap ranges and now favour more expensive processed meat.

Some high street butchers have seized on the opportunity to persuade customers that they can offer the guarantee that beef means beef, whereas some supermarket ready meals have been caught out. One butcher has been pictured hanging a sign in his window saying, 'Stop horsing around! Use your local butcher'.

People are also being reminded that they can look out for the Red Tractor logo on products as an assurance about where their food is sourced from. So, what is the logo and does it do what it says on the pack? Read our FAQs.

What is the Red Tractor logo?

The Red Tractor scheme was launched in 2000 as a licenced quality mark of an organisation called Assured Food Standards (AFS). It was principally the brainchild of the National Farmers' Union (NFU) which was concerned that its members were suffering because of public mistrust in the food they were buying.

The logo featured a bright red tractor and was designed to show that the labelled product had come from traceable British products.

It has since become an independent organisation.

Who runs the Red Tractor scheme?

Red Tractor Assurance is a small organisation whose costs are met by fees and licence payments from farmers and food producers.

The board consists of representatives from the National Farmers' Union, the Ulster Farmers' Union, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, Dairy UK and the British Retail Consortium. The Food and Drink Federation also has an important say in its running.

If I buy a Red Tractor product, what does it mean?

AFS says that consumers who buy a product featuring the red tractor logo can expect to get food that has been produced, packed, stored and transported in the UK to Red Tractor standards.

How can I be sure?

According to Red Tractor Assurance, the standards in all farming sectors, such as chicken, dairy or vegetables, have been agreed by a panel of experts to ensure that the food is safe and that the animals are well treated.

The logo is protected by trademark and only approved packers can use the logo, while food businesses need to be licenced before they can use the mark. The licencing rules give AFS the right to check that the supply chain to ensure the logo only appears on food conforming to the rules.

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