Supermarket Campaign to Tackle Consumer Confusion

UK - 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.
calendar icon 8 February 2007
clock icon 2 minute read

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.”

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