Roughly 2 million pigs per week from farms operating illegally will be entering the European food chain once new European Union animal welfare legislation banning sow stalls goes into effect on January 1, 2013, according to Britain's National Pig Association.

Eighty percent of EU countries have not yet complied with the ban, according to data published by Brussels. "As the United Kingdom imports around 60 percent of its pork — much of it as processed food such as ham and bacon — shoppers will need to be very careful about what they choose from supermarket shelves and when eating out in restaurants," said Richard Longthorp, chairman for the National Pig Association. 


So far, France is 33 percent compliant with the European stalls ban, Germany is 48 percent compliant and Ireland is 57 percent compliant. Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain are also expected to miss the January 1 deadline for compliance. "The major British supermarkets have promised they will not sell pork from continental farms operating illegally, but our concern is that in many cases these farms will be difficult to identify and everybody admits that imported processed foods will be almost impossible to trace," said National Pig Association general manager Dr. Zoe Davies.

"Our advice to shoppers is always to look for the independent Red Tractor logo on the pack, which is an absolute guarantee that the product comes from a British pig farm where keeping sows in stalls has been banned for over a decade."