Sir; With regard to British attacks on our assurance standards (October 21, p64) I would like to point out that Irish beef has an outstanding track record in meeting customer requirements in all markets.

The product is listed on the shelves of more supermarkets in more EU member states than that of any other origin. Ireland is the largest net exporter of beef in the northern hemisphere and the positive perception of Irish beef is underpinned and will continue to be by adherence to the highest quality standards. Verification of these high standards is supported by the Beef Quality Assurance Scheme (BQAS), which has been operating in Ireland since 1991.

The scheme is the subject of continuous improvement by Bord Bia and the industry. In the past 18 months BQAS has, in consultation with the industry's large customer base across Britain and Continental Europe, been upgraded to EN45011 status.

A rapid transition process was put in place in agreement with the Irish meat industry and it remains on schedule. The independent inspection and certification of farms commenced in 2005 and this continues to be rolled out.

Over 9,600 farms have been certified under the new BQAS, there are some 13,100 farms registered, with the balance in the process of audit and certification.

Irish beef processors have been targeting this supply of quality assured product (that meets EN45011 standards) in the first instance at UK supermarkets.

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