Scotland’s farming union is asking farmers, their families
and the wider public to identify supermarkets that may be confusing
shoppers by mixing meat from different countries of origin in the
same shelf space. NFU Scotland is concerned that the efforts of Scottish
farmers to produce the highest quality produce are being undermined
because consumers are struggling to distinguish it from foreign imports
because of the so-called ‘co-mingling’ problem.
NFUS has already collected evidence from a Tesco store of
Argentine beef, New Zealand lamb and Dutch pork being sold underneath
a Saltire flag and, in a Sainsbury’s store, Irish beef being
sold on a shelf also emblazoned with the Scottish flag.
NFUS is asking farmers to contact it with cases of co-mingling, providing
photographic evidence where possible, and the Union will take it up with
the supermarket in question and, failing a satisfactory resolution, with
enforcement agencies. Farmers are asked to call 0131 472 4021 or 4020 to
Misleading labelling contravenes the Food Labelling Regulations Act 1996.
It stipulates general legal requirements regarding labelling, including
that place of origin and provenance should labelled in such a way as to
not mislead a purchaser. A recent ruling by LACORS, the UK government agency
which advises local authorities on policing regulation, stated that physical
separation of different countries of origin is the preferred approach and
that shelf-edge signage of a specific country of origin must not be used
if beef from different countries is on sale (see notes for further detail).
This issue has also been raised in House of Commons where shadow Agriculture
Minister James Paice MP has lodged a motion urging supermarkets to address
the issue. The motion has the support of 98 MPs to date (see notes for full
NFUS President John Kinnaird said:
“Consumers are increasingly looking for the Scottish brand because
they associate it with the highest quality of food and production standards.
The increasing emphasis being placed by supermarkets on local food is good
news, but it is vital the shoppers aren’t mistakenly guided to pick
up foreign produce believing it to be Scottish because of supermarket signage.
“We have had members and the public contact us concerned that foreign
beef, lamb and pork in particular is being sold under material promoting
“We are raising this with every supermarket that is found to be mixing
up meat from different countries, stressing to them their legal obligations
and the requirements expected of them by local authorities. We need farmers,
their families and all consuemrs to help this campaign by contacting us,
preferably with photographic evidence, so we can take it up with the retailer.”
· Previously, LACORS had essentially ruled that meat products
from different countries of origin must be separated by at least
a plastic strip. The British Retail Consortium challenged that interpretation
and, last December, LACORS issued a revised ruling. The latest ruling
recognises that other forms of consumer information may meet a legal requirement,
however stressed that where co-mingling occurred it must be clearly identified.
It also specifically addressed the problem of mixed meat being
sold under country-specific signs, such as the Saltire. The ruling read:
It is agreed by all parties that consumers must not be misled in relation
to geographical origin of beef they are considering purchasing.
From a pure enforcement view, physical separation provides the best
form of consumer information – but other forms of display will meet
Acceptable alternatives could take the form of prominent notices at the
point of selection to the effect that the beef presented for sale is of
mixed origns and that individual packs should be examined for precise origin.
Additionally care must be taken in relation to other forms of point of
sale information and imagery. For example, shelf edge signage suggesting
a specific origin only must not be used if beef of mixed origin is presented
· James Paice MP has lodged the following motion in the
Commons. It has the support of 98 MPs. It reads:
LABELLING OF MEAT PRODUCTS
That this House believes that informed consumer choice is central
to the effective marketing of British meat; is concerned at increasing reports
of products from different countries being mixed up on some supermarket
shelves; and therefore calls upon all food retailers to ensure that they
comply with the guidance issued by the local authorities co-ordinators of
regulatory services to retailers on applying the provisions of Article 16
(Regulation (EC) number 178/2002), which sets out provisions governing the
on-shelf presentation of meat and meat products from different countries
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