Ready meals are set to carry the red tractor logo after Assured Food Standards, which licenses the mark, changed the criteria controlling its use.

New rules will allow retailers and their suppliers to use the red tractor logo on food products in which the principal ingredient is assured.

Initially, that ingredient will have to constitute at least 65% of the product, and 100% of that ingredient will have to be assured. Where the mark is used, the logo will incorporate details of which ingredient is assured.

The qualifying level has been set deliberately high to avoid a deluge of applications in the early days of the change, although The Grocer understands it may be relaxed if the initiative proves a hit with retailers and consumers.

The tight restrictions mean most supermarket ready meals, including premium lines, will not make the grade for now. However, many simpler prepared foods consisting of a protein in a basic sauce or marinade are likely to be covered.

With summer on the way, AFS expects to receive major interest from suppliers and retailers of added-value barbecue cuts. The current rules, which apply to fresh and processed foods state that 95% of any product must be red tractor assured. As a result, relatively few processed foods have red tractor status - some sausages, bread, cheese and butter are among the foods that have made the grade so far.

AFS head of marketing Beverley Wilson said: "We have found a way to identify the red tractor provenance of a single ingredient without undermining the integrity of the logo.

"In the first instance, special licences will be issued on a case-by-case basis, allowing AFS to keep a tight rein on the type of qualifying products. Retailers and manufacturers have been asked to identify relevant products and AFS will monitor consumer reaction."