Beef industry leaders in the UK have warned retailers that they may be stocking sub-standard Irish beef.

Robert Forster of the National Beef Association said some beef from the Irish Republic on shelves in Asda and Sainsbury's may not be farm assured.

"The inspection and accreditation that supports the Beef Quality Assurance Scheme in the Republic of Ireland remains incapable of establishing sufficient EN45011 standard farm assurance cover for all deliveries into the UK. We have been informed that as few as 5,000 beef farms were inspected and accredited in the first year of BQAS operation - well short of the 40,000 target and the 80,000 ROI farms recorded as keeping beef cows in 2001."

At present no farm inspections are taking place at all, after EFSIS pulled out of its contract with Bord Bia. The replacement company has yet to set up an inspections unit. About 30% of Ireland's beef production is exported to the UK.