In recent years there has been a rapid growth in the number of quality assurance schemes operating in the EU pigmeat sector. Quality assurance programmes are the cornerstone of the EU's food quality policy.
Individual member states like Ireland also operate a variety of voluntary quality assurance programmes that operate in addition to the regulatory standards.
These schemes define a series of technical requirements that cover the entire production chain from the farm to the meat processing plant.
They are based on ISO quality management principles & incorporate HACCP.
In many cases the schemes provide for a quality logo to be displayed on the final consumer product. Quality logos attest to the specific quality of the product & are a guarantee to the consumer that the product has been produced in accordance with the highest Quality assurance standards.
In Ireland, the Pigmeat Quality Assurance Scheme (PQAS) is operated by Bord Bia, the Irish Food Board. PQAS is a national standard that holds Irish pig producers to exceptionally high standards and has played a key role in ensuring Irish pork is the trusted choice among retailers and consumers in some of the most discerning markets in the world.
PQAS is regularly updated as new knowledge and information becomes available, meaning that Irish pork production shows due diligence at every link of the supply chain. Through PQAS, production facilities are regularly inspected and audited every 18 months to ensure they are adhering to its rigorous standards.
Key commitments made by PQAS members include:
- The operation of strict biosecurity systems to protect and maintain the health status of pig units and prevent the spread of disease. These systems covers everything from hygiene policy and use of disinfecting facilities to visitor logs and protective clothing and shoes worn on farms.
- Traceability – ensuring the full traceability of every pork cut back to its farm of origin.
- Use of continuous feed and water systems in pig units, with feed from assured sources.
- Health and welfare commitments that ensure pigs thrive and grow in good health in a suitable environment where good stockmanship and husbandry and strong biosecurity measures are practiced.
- Processed pigs are from DNA tested boars and are DNA traceable.
- Exclusive use of animal remedies authorised by the Health Products Regulatory Authority in Ireland or by the European Medicines Evaluation Agency, and carrying an approval number.
- Producers awareness of requirement for pigmeat to be free of undesirable residues.
- In 2020, PQAS will become the Sustainable Pigmeat Assurance Scheme (SPAS), with sustainability goals embedded in the new scheme. Producers will commit to:
- Measuring the carbon footprint of their farms.
- Reducing greenhouse gas emissions in their pigmeat production.