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Stackyard News Feb 07

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    Supermarket Campaign to Tackle Consumer Confusion

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 report cases.

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 text).

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 Scottish produce.

“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 current requirements.

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 for sale.

· James Paice MP has lodged the following motion in the Commons. It has the support of 98 MPs. It reads:


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 of origin.

link NFUS Red Tape Campaign Taken To Parliament
link Hill Sheep Sector Concern Over Prices
link Scottish Farmers Campaign Reaches Scottish Parliament

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