What is a Quality Assurance Scheme?
A Quality Assurance Scheme, for a food product, is a programme whereby the food is produced to a set of standards (rules) and the producer/processor is inspected (audited) to ensure that production is in accordance with those standards. In the Bord Bia Quality Assurance Schemes all steps in the food chain from production to final packaging for sale to the end user are Quality Assured; these include the farm or growing unit, the meat factory or packing centre and any secondary processing food factory (smoking, curing, cooking etc)
There are 3 basic components in a Quality Assurance Scheme:
The standards are the rules that members must comply with and these are drawn up by a panel of experts. These experts are selected from various parts of the industry/supply chain and include independent scientific and food safety expertise. This panel meets on a regular basis to update the standards in accordance with changes in legislation and improvements in best practice. The main areas covered by the standards include traceability, animal welfare, care for the environment, safe use of medicines and chemicals at farm level; and animal welfare, food safety, hygiene and traceability at factory level.
The audit is the inspection of the farm or factory to ensure that the food is being produced in accordance with the standards. The audit is conducted by independent auditors and all members of the Quality Assurance Schemes receive inspections at regular intervals to ensure compliance. In addition random audits are also carried out where necessary. The auditor makes a recommendation as to whether the farm or factory is to be certified
After the audit is completed, and provided that the farm or factory meets the requirements of the standard, the next step in the process is certification. An independent certification committee makes the decision to certify. Certification is official confirmation that the audit has been passed and the member is then eligible to apply to use the Bord Bia Q mark on product where appropriate.
What does the Bord Bia Quality Assurance Mark (Q Mark) tell me?
Where you see Bord Bia Q Mark on a product it means that the product has been produced in accordance with the required Quality Assurance standards (see Q 1 above) and secondly the flag and the ‘Origin Ireland’ on the mark verify that the product was produced, in its entirety, in Ireland – where you see this mark it means that the food was farmed and processed in the Republic of Ireland.
What products carry the Q Mark?
Bord Bia operates Quality Assurance Schemes for the following:
Bacon, Beef, Chicken, Duck, Eggs, Fruit, Lamb, Pork, Turkey and Vegetables. A substantial number of farmers/producers and processors are members of these schemes and therefore, a large range of food with the Bord Bia Q Mark is available from all the major supermarkets and other retail outlets.
Can imported meat or other foods which are processed in a Bord Bia Approved Food Company in Ireland carry the Bord Bia Q Mark with the Irish tricolour?
Only food produced on approved Irish farms and processed in approved Irish factories can carry the Origin Ireland Q Mark. Currently all the members of the Bord Bia Quality Assurance schemes are on the island of Ireland.
Is there more than one version of the Q Mark?
There are 3 main versions - all members of the Bord Bia QAS are on the island of Ireland.
- Quality assured food that is produced and processed in the Republic of Ireland will have the Origin Ireland Q Mark (Fig 1)
- Quality assured food that is produced and processed in Northern Ireland will have the Origin Northern Ireland Q Mark (Fig 2)
- Some quality assured food may be farmed in Republic of Ireland and processed in Northern Ireland, in this case it will carry Q Mark shown in Fig 3
Can I find the Q mark on prepared or "ready meals"?
Yes. Many companies, certified by Bord Bia, use quality assured meat as an ingredient in their prepared meals. Where the percentage of meat in the final product is over 90% (86% or greater in the case of pigmeat products and 70% or greater for sausages) of the total ingredients and the meat is quality assured then the Q Mark on the label will be as in Fig 4. Where the quality assured meat in the final product is less than 90% of the total ingredients, the Q Mark in Fig 5 is used – this is to convey that it is the meat portion of the product that is quality assured by Bord Bia.
Why should I buy product carrying the Bord Bia Q Mark?
There are a number of reasons why you should choose product with the Q Mark.
- Firstly, you are assured that the product has been produced to the highest international standards and that this is checked regularly by Bord Bia.
- Secondly, you know where it comes from – if it carries the Origin Ireland Q Mark then you are assured that the product was grown and processed in the Republic of Ireland.
- Thirdly, there are over 40,000 Irish farmers who are members of the Bord Bia Quality Assurance schemes and a similar number of employees in the food industry who are involved in bringing quality assured food to you. By purchasing quality assured food you are demonstrating your support and preference for their products.
A majority of Irish shoppers say that seeing the Q Mark on meat would make them more likely to buy (Source: Behaviour & Attitudes 2011).
Why should I trust the Bord Bia Quality Mark?
The Bord Bia Q Mark is based on standards that have been developed and refined over a number of years in consultation with scientists, academics and independent experts on a broad range of issues such as food safety, animal health and welfare, care for the environment etc. The Bord Bia Quality Assurance Board, which has responsibility for all Bord Bia’s Quality Assurance Schemes, is comprised of members with a wide range of experience and expertise including specialists in food production, veterinary medicine, regulation and retailing. In addition the Board also includes an experienced consumer representative to ensure that consumer interests are taken into account at all times.
All of the Bord Bia standards are regularly reviewed and updated to ensure compliance with changes in regulations and best practice and these standards are publicly available and published on our website. All the Bord Bia Quality Assurance standards comply to international best practice and are independently certified.
Are the Bord Bia Quality Assurance Schemes recognised internationally?
All the Bord Bia Quality Assurance schemes are accredited to IS EN ISO 9001:2008 with the National Standards Authority of Ireland and to the European Standard EN45011 – this means that they are recognised internationally which is very important for exports. The Bord Bia schemes are themselves regularly audited to ensure that they are keeping pace with the best global standards.
How many members are there in the Bord Bia Quality Assurance Schemes?
Although the Bord Bia Quality Assurance Schemes are voluntary schemes there is significant support for them from farmers and the food industry. Currently over 40,000 farmers and over 150 food processors and packers are members of the Bord Bia Quality Assurance Schemes.
There are separate schemes for
Food Safety Authority
The FSAI has the primary responsibility for controlling the safety of food. It delegates some of its functions to other bodies such as the Health Services Executive and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, but it retains the final responsibility.