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tallow used in the production of its £5 polymer notes’. It said that the Bank ‘was not aware of the presence of animal-derived products when it signed the contract with its supplier for the £5 and £10 banknote polymer. When the Bank was notified of the presence of tallow, its first step was to alert the public and, subsequently, has been treating the concerns raised by members of the public with the utmost seriousness’. The Bank pointed out that an extremely small amount of

tallow was used in an early stage of the production process of polymer pellets. These were then used to create the base substrate for the £5 note. The Bank was continuing to work closely with banknote polymer suppliers ‘to determine what alternatives might be available’. What appears to have infuriated the Vegan lobby even further

was that a new £10 and a new £20 note are in the pipeline, the former scheduled for September this year. Both are reported to involve the same production process as the humble fiver, including the presence of tallow. In response to the firestorm raised by the new fiver, the Bank

is launching ‘a full consultation’ on 30 March about the content of polymer substrate to be used in its future banknotes. The consultation paper will set out the key issues and invite views from the public, thus allowing the Bank ‘to understand better the range of public opinion on this issue and inform its future decision making’. Information will include details of the production process for polymer banknotes, the importance of high quality, counterfeit- resilient banknotes, the availability of plant-based alternatives to animal-derived products and their likely viability for banknotes and, I suspect critically, future cost implications. Meanwhile, it would be interesting to know what other products

involve tallow as part of the manufacturing process. More on this, I do not doubt, in due course. Meanwhile, has anyone yet seen the new £1 coin? With its twelve sides, some of our older readers may be reminded of the old threepenny bit.

MEAT CONTAMINATION As a regular receiver, of emails from the Food Standards Agency, I was slightly taken aback to read the headline in my Saturday morning newspaper ‘Fears of ‘dirty meat’ entering food chain after 25% of abattoirs fail tests’. This is, very much, Food Standards Agency territory and so I

was surprised to read the ‘story’ in a national newspaper rather than receiving notification from the FSA. The report, which contained allegations which could reasonably be described as ‘explosive’, alleged that ‘One in four slaughterhouses are failing to take basic hygiene precautions to stop contaminated meat reaching high street butchers and supermarkets’. It further alleged that investigation by the Observer newspaper and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism had revealed ‘that official Food Standards Agency records were falsified to conceal true levels of meat contamination at an English abattoir’. The speed at which the FSA responded to the investigation is


indicative of the seriousness with which the allegations were regarded. The FSA statement argued that recent media reports of contaminated meat ‘do not give the complete picture on the condition of meat entering the food chain, or on the work done by the FSA to ensure that the meat we eat is safe’. The FSA emphasises that their Meat Hygiene Inspectors and

Official Veterinarians inspect every red meat and poultry carcase for visible contamination, with 99.57 per cent of them passing the test. I hope that FSA will forgive me if I say that these figures sound rather like the results of a somewhat dubiously governed state in one of the less democratic parts of the world. However, the remaining 0.43 per cent is rejected and passed back to the food business for them to rectify the problem. This, the FSA say, is the work that their staff do day in, day out, 365 days a year. If the product does not pass, it does not get a health mark and, crucially, it does not enter the human food chain. FSA say that they ‘do not tolerate’ hygiene failures and that they

take ‘robust enforcement action to ensure food businesses improve their procedures to prevent meat becoming contaminated in the first place’. Ultimately, if standards are not improving or the risk to public health is high enough, then the nuclear option comes into play and ‘we take enforcement action up to and including taking away a premises’ approval to operate’. FSA emphasise that they have no plans to do away with what they

call ‘real time’ meat inspection, as it remains a crucial and integral part of the way in which they effectively administer the complex system of legal controls to assure the public that meat production complies with hygiene and animal welfare controls. FSA remain committed to exploring ways in which they can

administer the system of controls in the most effective manner while maintaining the highest standards of hygiene and welfare. However, they go on to stress that ‘any changes will only be made through collaboration and consultation with those affected, and ensuring that food is safe will always be at the heart of everything we do’. Given the seriousness of the accusations in the newspapers, either

actual or implied, I think we must regard FSA’s initial response to the article as provisional. I am sure we are going to hear a great deal more on this subject as the arguments develop.

ORGANIC SURGE Given that the widespread predictions, that post-Brexit, the UK economy would sink into all kinds of recession, have been found wanting, it is perhaps surprising that the sector of the food market, which many people would have thought was particularly vulnerable to consumers drawing in their horns, the organic sector, has not only proved far more resilient than expected but is being described as being in ‘rude health, with consumer perception and reassurance at the heart of growth’. We shall see how the situation develops as the Brexit process evolves.

NFU CONFERS As major suppliers to farmers, the feed industry will always be interested in the pronunciations of farmers’ representatives and, in particular, their

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