Red Tractor has today announced its intent to "substantially increase" the breadth of its food chain assurance regime in a bid to become the flagship of British food and farming.

In a significant overhaul, the assurance scheme announces that it will create a new suite of additional ‘Modular Standards’, to sit alongside its current robust core offering as well as changing its inspection regime to include more unannounced inspections.

The new modules could cover areas such as organic, environmentally sustainable production or enriched animal welfare and will be launched with a consumer-facing labelling system to improve clarity for shoppers.

The additional modules aim to give consumers the confidence that whatever their food choice, there is a Red Tractor label to satisfy their demand for traceable, safe, responsibly produced food.

More unannounced inspections

A spokesman for Red Tractor said changes to its farm inspection programme - including the introduction of more unannounced inspections - are aimed at strengthening the integrity of the scheme.

The new tougher regime has been in development for the last 12 months and will begin in November 2018 for full roll-out across all farms in 2019.

"Our objective is that every Red Tractor member adheres to every standard every day. Failure to do so risks expulsion from the scheme," the spokesman said.

"The vast majority of Red Tractor farmers do an excellent job every day. However, those farms that fail the standards will find themselves the focus of a tougher inspection regime with greater inspection frequency and unannounced inspections."

'Exciting times'

Jim Moseley, chief executive, said: “I believe that this is one of the most exciting times in Red Tractor’s 19-year history and I am very proud to be leading us through these changes.

Our vision is that Red Tractor is seen by shoppers, farmers and the food industry as the flagship of British food and farming.

"Red Tractor is already a world-leading assurance scheme; however, we are constantly strengthening our standards in line with scientific advances and consumer demand.

£1.5 million TV campaign

"We know shoppers are increasingly looking for more informed choice and simple signposts to traceable, safe and responsibly produced food, which is why we are looking to extend the remit of Red Tractor.

"Increasing confidence in Red Tractor and the entire UK food industry is vital, particularly as we approach Brexit.”

It comes just one day before the brand is set to communicate to consumers the standards behind its logo through a £1.5 million national TV campaign.

Moseley added: “We know consumers are twice as likely to look for Red Tractor products if they know more about what it stands for, which is why it is vital we invest in large-scale communications to tell them what we do.”