Danish officials have raised concerns over a boycott of Danish pork in Swedish ICA Supermarket stores during a meeting of Nordic prime ministers in Iceland.
The boycott, which began in three ICA stores in April, has expanded to include almost 20 independently-owned ICA Supermarkets. The boycott - over animal welfare standards on Danish farms - gained traction following reports of four off-farm human fatalities connected to MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus) - antibiotic-resistant bacteria carried by pigs.
Danish pork exporters, headed by Danish Crown, have launched an information campaign in collaboration with Swedish food retail organisation Svensk Dagligvaruhandel to try and ease Swedish public concerns.
The boycott comes at a time when ICA’s central purchasing has developed plans to increase the share of domestic fresh pork it sells in its countrywide network of 1,300 stores by 10% to 87% by 31 December, 2014.
"At this point, we have no plans to stop purchasing Danish pork at a central level. Our customers do want more locally produced pork meat, and that is what we are responding to. Customers want to know more about the food they are eating, and what it contains and how it is produced," said ICA Sverige spokesperson Jenny Egeland.
The controversy has also been fuelled by Swedish enterprise minister Annie Lööf, who advocated a boycott of all Danish meat in schools, claiming that Denmark’s practice of docking the tails of new-born piglets violates the European Union pigs directive.
"If other countries fail to grasp the importance of animal welfare when we explain it to them, we should use public sector spending to put pressure on them," said Lööf in a letter circulated to municipal run schools on 2 June.
Denmark refutes Lööf’s claims. The Danish Agriculture and Food Council (Landbrug & Fødevarer) said the minister is using tail docking as a "trade barrier tool" to protect its indigenous pork industry.
"The claims by Lööf are surprising. This is an unjustified smear campaign. Our pork exports will return to normal when the controversy fades in Sweden. If sales there decline, we will find other markets to sell our pork," said council chairman Martin Merrild.
Danish pork exports to Sweden represented 2.5% of Denmark’s total exports of 1.9 million tonnes in 2013.