Quality Meat Scotland is launching a 'gradual return' to physical assessments for priority members in its six quality assurance schemes starting on 28 June.
The move follows the introduction of a remote assessment tool in April and is part of a plan for assurance assessments during Covid-19 restrictions.
Physical assessments would only be conducted where a remote assessment is not possible, Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) said.
It will be prioritised based on the following criteria: a high-risk member, an overdue assessment, new applicants or a response to complaint or concern.
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.
This would limit the time on farm and reduce the risk to both member and assessor, QMS explained.
To ensure the safety of both assessors and members, a Covid-19 risk assessment will be conducted prior to every assessment.
This will determine if there are any vulnerabilities that would either prevent or increase risk to member or assessor if a physical assessment took place.
Kathryn Kerr, head of brands integrity at QMS, said the remote assessments had proved 'extremely successful' in ensuring members’ certification continued during the pandemic.
“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.”
If a member is categorised as vulnerable and identified as requiring a physical assessment, he or she could choose to have a representative present during the assessment to act on their behalf, QMS said.
The red meat body added that 'strict protocol' would be followed during any physical assessment by assessors, including wearing of PPE and adherence to distancing rules.