Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) has announced a gradual return to physical assessments for priority members in its six quality assurance schemes, starting next week (28 June 2020).
The move follows the introduction of a remote assessment tool in April and is part of a five-point plan for assurance assessments during COVID-19 restrictions.
Physical assessments will only be conducted where a remote assessment is not possible and will be prioritised based on the following criteria: a high-risk member, an overdue assessment, new applicants or a response to complaint or concern.
Where possible, members will be requested to submit their documents to a portal or direct to the assessors for review prior to any physical visit to a member, thus limiting the time on farm and reducing risk to both member and assessor.
To ensure the safety of both assessors and members, a COVID-19 risk assessment will be conducted prior to every assessment to determine if there are any vulnerabilities that would either prevent or increase risk to member or assessor if a physical assessment took place.
Where a member is categorised as vulnerable and identified as requiring a physical assessment, the member may choose to have a representative present during the assessment to act on their behalf. Where this is not possible, the assessors will refer the member to Lloyds Register for discussion with QMS.
Strict protocol will be followed during any physical assessment by all assessors, including wearing of PPE and adherence to physical distancing rules.
Kathryn Kerr, head of brands integrity at Quality Meat Scotland said: “The remote assessments have proved extremely successful in ensuring the vast majority of members’ certification continued seamlessly during the pandemic, providing a workable solution which has continued to underpin our world-class standards.
“For those members who were not able to complete their assessment remotely, the resumption of physical assessments will ensure the integrity of the Scotch Beef PGI, Scotch Lamb PGI and Specially Selected Pork brands are protected robustly.”