Former Groceries Code Adjudicator appointed as Red Tractor chair

Christine Tacon, the first Groceries Code Adjudicator, has been appointed as chair of Assured Food Standards, which operates the Red Tractor Assurance scheme.

Mrs Tacon takes up the role on January 1, 2021, replacing Dame Lucy Neville-Rolfe, whose term ended last month. Awarded a CBE for services to agriculture in 2004, she joins Red Tractor with decades of experience as a leader and advocate for the British food and farming industry and with an extensive background in change management, regulation and the food chain.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe announced she was standing down at the end of her three-year term in October after she came in for heavy criticism for voting against an amendment to the Agriculture Bill that would have required food imports under future trade deals to match UK standards.

In an appointment likely to be welcomed across the farming industry, Mrs Tacon, who takes on the role on the role at a critical time for the scheme, 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.”

A spokesperson for the Ownership Body of Red Tractor, comprising of the Farming Unions, AHDB, Dairy UK and the BRC, responsible for the appointment, 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. They have helped establish UK’s food and farming industry as the benchmark for quality across the world. 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.”

From 2013 until October 2020, Ms Tacon, in her role as the Adjudicator, was a government regulator responsible for overseeing the implementation of the Groceries Supply Code of Practice by large grocery retailers. She was widely seen as having done a good job in improving supply chain relations during her seven years in the role.

Mrs Tacon started her professional career as an engineer and then moved into marketing working at organisations including Mars, Vodafone and Anchor (now Fonterra). For more than 10 years, she ran the Co-operative Group’s farming business- the largest of its kind in the UK.

She currently serves as the Chair of the BBC Rural Affairs Committee and MDS – a management training scheme for the food and fresh produce industry. She is also a Director of the AF Group, a £250m purchasing co-operative for agri-businesses.

NFU Deputy President Stuart Roberts said: “We are delighted that Christine Tacon has been appointed to this important role. 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.

“Having worked closely with Christine as the GCA, Red Tractor will benefit hugely from her strong leadership, collaborative relationships that she works so hard to develop, and an ability to drive the industry forward.

“The NFU looks forward to working closely with Christine and Assured Food Standards at a critical time for UK food and farming as we look towards life outside the EU.”

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