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.
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
“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
- 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
It is agreed by all parties that consumers must not be misled
in relation to geographical origin of beef they are considering
From a pure enforcement view, physical separation
provides the best form of consumer information – but
other forms of display will meet current requirements.
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
- 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.
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