Former supermarket watchdog to chair Red Tractor farm assurance scheme

Christine Tacon, groceries code adjudicator, the national regulator for supermarkets. Picture: DENIS

Christine Tacon has been appointed chairman of the Red Tractor farm assurance scheme - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2015

A Norfolk-born businesswoman who became the UK's first independent supermarket regulator is now set to lead the nation's Red Tractor farm assurance scheme.

Christine Tacon has been appointed chairman of Assured Food Standards (AFS) which operates Red Tractor, the largest farm and food assurance scheme in the UK covering food safety, traceability, animal welfare and environmental protection.

In 2013 she became the country's first groceries code adjudicator (GCA), a role created to ensure the largest retailers treat their direct suppliers lawfully, to investigate complaints and arbitrate in disputes. She held that position until October 2020 and will now replace Dame Lucy Neville-Rolfe as AFS chairman on January 1.

Her career also includes senior marketing positions for organisations including Mars, Vodafone and Anchor, now Fonterra. She ran the Co-operative Group’s farming business for more than 10 years and was made a CBE for services to agriculture in 2004.

She currently chairs the BBC Rural Affairs Committee and is also a director of the AF Group, formerly Anglia Farmers, a £250m purchasing co-operative based at Honingham Thorpe near Norwich.

Ms Tacon said: “I’m really looking forward to joining Red Tractor. This role builds on my experience in farming, the food chain, working with government and most of all with consumers.

"With uncertainty on standards of food imported into the UK post-Brexit, this is a great time to be working on British standards and ensuring they are fit for purpose for all its stakeholders.”

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A spokesman for the ownership body of Red Tractor, comprising farming unions, agricultural industry bodies and the British Retail Consortium, said: “This is a pivotal time for UK agriculture, with the UK’s departure from the EU and the uncertainties of future trade deals.

“Red Tractor’s standards are the bedrock of British agriculture. Now more than ever is the time to demonstrate strong leadership, to protect the integrity of the food chain and the agricultural standards that we have built up in Britain over the decades.

“Christine’s proven credentials and a career that spans across the supply chains of food and farming, will be an enormous asset in helping Red Tractor fly the flag for our industry and to deliver on its core purpose to reassure consumers.”

Gary Ford, regional director for the National Farmers' Union (NFU) in East Anglia, also welcomed the appointment.

"We are pleased that Christine Tacon has been appointed to this important role," he said. "She brings a wealth of industry experience to the Red Tractor table from across the food and farming sectors and from her work with government in her recent role as groceries code adjudicator.

"From an East Anglian perspective, it is also good to have someone in that role who knows the region, and its food and farming industry, so well.

"The NFU has worked closely with her at the GCA and we look forwarded to continuing that relationship with her in her new role at Assured Food Standards, at a critical time for UK food and farming."