Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) is to stop all routine face-to-face quality assurance visits for at least one month in a bid to reduce the spread of coronavirus.
The red meat levy body runs assurances schemes for the Scotch Beef, Scotch Lamb and Specially Selected Pork brands.
Its schemes cover more than 90% of Scotland’s breeding cattle population, around 80% of the country’s breeding sheep, and almost all significant pig farming businesses in Scotland.
In a statement, QMS said all routine face-to-face assurance scheme inspections would be suspended to limit the spread of coronavirus.
Beef, sheep and pig farmers, along with processors, auction marts, and hauliers, will be assessed remotely.
QMS said the process would involve assurance scheme members submitting certain information via email or post, which will then be evaluated and form part of the certification process.
The physical assessment of premises, whether they be farms, abattoirs or auction marts, will be carried out once it has been agreed it is safe to do so.
All assurance scheme members will still be required to pay their renewal fees to keep continuity of membership.
“QMS has been closely following the current Scottish and UK Government guidelines on what steps should be taken to protect ourselves and others from the coronavirus,” said QMS chief executive Alan Clarke.
“Our priority is the health and safety of our staff, our contractors and our quality assurance members and, as we move into one of the busiest times of the year for producers, it is essential that we play our part in ensuring that their health is protected by providing workable solutions which still continue to underpin our world-class standards.”
He said further details of the new inspection process would be sent out to any members who are due an assessment.