Sir; The government’s comments on proposals for an ombudsman to address the adverse effect on competition found by the Competition Commission in its investigation of the UK groceries market are as non-committal as they can be (The Grocer, 2 August, p5).
This is the second time in eight years that an adverse finding has been reached in the area of supply chain practices and, with the original remedy proving largely ineffective, a more dynamic response might have been expected. Instead, BERR proposes to await the outcome of discussions with retailers and then, if necessary, undertake an assessment of whether consumer interests are affected. Haven’t we just had such an assessment?
It is now time to introduce the new code of practice at the earliest opportunity in order to address the anti-competitive practices in the market, with the OFT as the monitor and enforcer, at least in the short term. Responsibility can then pass to an ombudsman once agreement has been reached with retailers or legislation passed.
Government must deliver on watchdog Helen Rimmer Food campaigner, Friends of the Earth
Sir; The government’s response to the Competition Commission’s groceries inquiry fails to back the commission’s recommendation for an independent supermarket ombudsman (The Grocer, 2 August, p5).
In not supporting this recommendation, the government is questioning the analysis of a major two-year inquiry that effectively undermines the status and role of the Competition Commission.
The supermarkets have twice been found guilty of abusing their buyer power and transferring excessive risks and costs to their suppliers, ultimately harming consumers.
It is absolutely in the best interests of consumers that we have a fair supply chain with plenty of choice . To achieve this we need a strong supplier base that can invest and innovate.
Government must make it clear that if the retailers do not co-operate with the commission, it will use all available legislative powers to establish a watchdog. These essential remedies cannot be left for the supermarkets to weaken then voluntarily sign up to.
Government must demonstrate it is not in the pocket of the supermarkets and show that it is fully behind the commission’s recommendation of an independent watchdog with proactive powers of investigation.
FSA defends its 6g daily advice for salt Rosemary Hignett Head of nutrition, Food Standards Agency
Sir;In response to your feature on salt, the FSA would like to highlight the considerable body of evidence supporting the link between salt and blood pressure (‘Are revised FSA salt reduction targets worth their salt?, The Grocer, 2 August, p24).
Our 6g salt-per-day recommendation is based on advice from the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN), independent experts who carried out a comprehensive risk assessment. SACN’s conclusions drew on a range of evidence from approximately 200 scientific papers. These conclusions, published in Salt and Health (2003), are consistent with other eminent scientific bodies, including the WHO, and the Institute of Medicine (USA).
The Cochrane Review, which assessed the long-term effectiveness of the advice to consumers to reduce salt, shows how difficult it is to keep to a low-salt diet, and therefore the importance of product reformulation.
In addition, the DASH sodium trial in which salt intake was carefully controlled showed the blood pressure-lowering effects of salt reduction within four weeks.
The FSA keeps a watching brief on emerging evidence on salt and health and is unaware of any substantive evidence published since the SACN report to suggest any adverse effects of reducing salt intake to 6g/day on pregnant women or the elderly.
We are consulting on the revised targets until 31 October and welcome evidence-based submissions from industry on any concerns they may have.
Red Tractor serves bird welfare badly Philip Lymbery Chief executive, Compassion in World Farming
Sir; British Poultry Council CEO Peter Bradnock talks about how consumers are being misled about British chicken farming, but perhaps he needs to look closer to home for the source of this confusion (Letters, The Grocer, 26 July, p22).
Although we would like to tell consumers wanting to buy higher-welfare chicken to look for the Red Tractor logo, we cannot.
The chickens reared as ‘standard’ within Red Tractor’s Assured Chicken Production (ACP) scheme are often kept in such overcrowded conditions that each bird is allocated less space than a single page of The Grocer magazine.
They are reared in dark, windowless sheds with no enrichment or perching.
With a recent Defra study showing more than one in four British broilers suffers lameness, things are not looking good for the standard ACP bird.
Please could Mr Bradnock explain to us and to the British public how this constitutes ‘high standards of welfare’ and why our standard national assurance scheme is committed to reinforcing misconceptions rather than showing real leadership?
His current approach does little to benefit the reputation of British chicken farmers, nor will it encourage consumer trust in the Red Tractor brand.