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    NFUS Campaign to Prevent Supermarket 'Co-Mingling' Hots Up
15/03/07

NFU Scotland’s campaign to prevent the large supermarkets from confusing consumers by mixing meat from different origins on shelves marked with the Saltire, is gaining momentum.

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NFUS has been 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 now collected evidence of more than ten incidents in Tesco, Sainsbury and Morrison stores around the country. Examples include a Tesco store where Argentine beef, New Zealand lamb and Dutch pork were all being sold underneath a Saltire flag and, a Sainsbury store with Irish beef being sold on a shelf also emblazoned with the Scottish flag.

NFUS President Jim McLaren, said:

“Modern consumers are very keen on buying Scottish produce because they quite rightly see it as being of superior quality as well as being keen to mitigate the negative effects of ‘food miles’.

“We are seeing positive steps being made by the major retailers when it comes to sourcing more and more local produce which is very encouraging. However, we are also seeing incidents in which quality Scottish produce is being mixed with foreign imports, under what is clearly Scottish branding.

“This can quite easily confuse consumers – the signage leads them to believe they are in a section of the store which is selling Scottish produce and yet they could pick up foreign produce in error because of the lack of clear shelf labelling. The individual packaging on these different products is often extremely similar and so it becomes an easy mistake to make.

“We are therefore raising every individual incident of this that we find with the supermarket in question and are campaigning to ensure that the practice isn’t allowed to continue.”

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.

Notes:
  • 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).

  • 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 origins 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:

    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 of origin.
  • Photographic evidence of the co-mingling can be obtained from Diane on 0131 472 4023 after 1.30pm on Wednesday 14 March.

link Pressure Mounts to Address Beef on the Bone Issue
link Supermarket Campaign to Tackle Consumer Confusion
link NFUS Chief Executive in EU Subsidy Talks

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