Questions and Answers

What is the little red tractor initiative all about?

British farmers, growers and food processors work to increasingly high production standards. But nowadays, they must not only do it but be seen to be doing it. Because of this need, over recent years “farm assurance” schemes have developed for all major sectors of the agri-food industry, setting stringent standards of production that are checked by independent inspectors. Britain leads the world in the development of these assurance schemes.

Why assurance?

British farmers and growers recognise that they must be able to demonstrate they have exercised ‘due diligence’ and been measured against the stringent standards of production set out by the schemes. It is vital the every step in the food chain - abattoirs, food processors, and purchasers of food including shops, wholesalers, retailers and caterers – also demonstrates ‘due diligence.’ Buying from ‘assured’ British farmers and growers is the ideal way to start.

So why the logo?

The little red tractor logo is the public face of these farm assurance schemes. It enables shoppers to recognise and choose assured food. At the same time the logo differentiates food produced by farmers and growers prepared to meet exacting British standards and allows them to be measured against those standards.

Why not just use the Union Jack?

The Union Jack alone cannot signify higher standards. And what’s more, it cannot be registered as a trademark so we cannot control its use. We wanted an icon that stands for stringent production standards – which we know is what shoppers want. And we wanted a logo that we own and can control by licence to ensure that it is only used on food that deserves to carry it. It is simply not good enough to put the flag on the pack and hope that people will buy it out of sympathy for British farmers.

How is Assured Food Standards (AFS) driving the little red tractor forward?

AFS believes that the little red tractor has a major role to play in the future of British food and farming by promoting recognition of assured food, that is food grown according to good farming practice and handled with care at all stages of the food chain. AFS can recognise farmers and growers who meet these criteria by their membership of certain approved assurance schemes. But AFS will only work with schemes which meet its exacting criteria and which strive to keep their standards up-to-date in a rapidly changing environment. Having established a value in scheme membership, AFS hope to see even greater participation in the schemes. And it will encourage the development of new schemes in areas not yet covered.

When did the logo first appear on food in the shops?

The little red tractor had its first outing on 13 June 2000.

What are the standards behind the little red tractor stamp of approval?

All products carrying the little red tractor stamp of approval are produced to the standards set out by the relevant assurance scheme. Membership of assurance schemes means that all farmers and growers are working to an agreed set of standards in their production processes. They are independently checked to ensure they meet the standards which cover:

Which assurance schemes are recognised?

Assurance schemes recognised as having reached the high standards required of the little red tractor include:

How do we know the inspections are any good?

Any scheme recognised by Assured Food Standards (AFS) must operate to the international standard in ISO Guide 65, which is European standard EN 45011. Amongst other details, this sets benchmarks for the management and competence of the inspections.

Are the standards only about assurance on the farm?

No. We recognise that food safety and animal welfare remain important issues once the produce or stock has left the farm. So the farm assurance standards are supplemented by standards for production, handling or processing at every critical step in the food chain. There are standards for how livestock is handled during transport or at auction markets; standards for bulk grain storage; standards for abattoirs and food factories and standards for many other key stages. And in all cases we insist upon independent checks and inspections.

What produce can carry the little red tractor?

The fact that food produced under all these assurance schemes can be licensed to carry the little red tractor means that for the first time ever, one logo can be used on every type of primary agricultural product - meat, poultry, dairy, fruit, vegetables, salads and cereals. This makes it particularly easy for shoppers wishing to buy farm assured food to track the little red tractor in different parts of the store. The logo can be found on single ingredient foods like cuts of meat, packets of fruit and vegetables, simple mixtures like mixed salad leaves and milk. It also appears on some processed foods such as sausages, beef burgers and frozen vegetables.

Where will I find products bearing the logo?

Aldi, Asda, Co-op, Morrison’s, Safeway, Sainsbury’s, Somerfield, Tesco and Waitrose are all using the logo on more than 500 different product lines. Through the Booker wholesale distribution chain other smaller independent shops and outlets also use the logo as do independent butchers. We are committed to introducing the logo into farm shops and farmers’ markets

Is the logo licensed?

The little red tractor logo is protected by trademark. Its use on retail packaging is controlled through a system of licences administered by Assured Food Standards (AFS), the independent company set up to manage the logo.

What should producers do if they want to use the logo on food they produce?

A hot line number 020 7331 7660 has been set up by Assured Food Standards (AFS) to cope with enquiries from food producers, processors, retailers and farmers who want to use the logo. Applicants are sent an information pack and asked to complete an application form. If the products meet the criteria, the applicant will be granted a licence. Licences are renewed on an annual basis. AFS will revoke a licence if the licensee fails to meet the standards set down by the scheme.

How many companies are currently licensed to use the mark on their food?

There have been hundreds of inquiries to Assured Food Standards from farmers, growers, retailers and processors all interested in using the mark. Nearly 500 applications have been approved.

Those licensed so far include companies from across the spectrum from a small family-run herb producer to a major international meat-processing firm.

How is the little red tractor being promoted to the public?

There has been a national advertising campaign and the NFU’s Food and Farming Roadshow, team of tasty farmers and local producers have all been involved in flying the flag for the little red tractor. Much more promotion is planned in the coming year.