Meat mislabelled ‘British’ in UK supermarket sparks concern
10th March 2023
The National Food Crime Unit is investigating after pre-packed meat and deli products labelled ‘British’ were found to be from South America and Europe.
A food fraud investigation is now underway after troubling reports of mislabelled meat products appearing in a UK supermarket.
The Food Standards Agency’s NFCU said the investigation concerns pre-packed sliced meat and deli products, not minced beef, burgers or steak. NFCU deputy head Andrew Quinn said it is not a food safety issue, but a matter of “food fraud”.
According to a statement, the retailer, which has been named as Booths, was made aware of the situation on the day that NFCU took action against the food business suspected of the fraud and immediately removed all affected products from sale.
The retailer is said to be “working closely and cooperatively” with NFCU to progress the case against the supplier.
NFCU declined to give further details to avoid jeopardising the investigation and any future proceedings.
Industry reacts to meat mislabelling
Speaking to Farmers Guide, Neil Shand, CEO of the National Beef Association, commented: “It’s quite disturbing that someone could have the audacity to imitate our British beef. We have to let the investigation run its course, but if there is a guilty party we must let the punishment fit the crime, to act as a major deterrent so this doesn’t happen again.”
Meanwhile, NFU president Minette Batters said: “Food security isn’t just about supply and availability. It also means ensuring our food is fully traceable, safe to eat, and that it adheres to our high animal welfare and environmental standards.
“We cannot speculate about an ongoing investigation, but it is clear to me that if we want to boost all elements of our food security, everything points to doing all we can to support domestic food production.”
Responding to the news on Twitter, the chair of Save British Farming, Liz Webster, pointed to Brexit as a potential factor in food fraud. ‘Food fraud is now easier than ever thanks to #Brexit removing import checks on our borders. If govt sign up to CPTPP these products won’t be illegal any longer […]’
Hertfordshire farmer Stuart Roberts also wrote: ‘The book needs to be thrown at those guilty of damaging the integrity of British beef in this way. Farmers throughout the country work hard day after day to produce great beef & we can’t let others in the supply chain damage the integrity of our products.’
Andrew Quinn’s full statement reads: “The FSA’s National Food Crime Unit is investigating how one UK retailer was supplied with pre-packed sliced meat and deli products labelled as British when they were in fact sourced from South America and Europe.
“The retailer was notified on the same day that we took action against the food business suspected of the fraud and immediately removed all affected products from their shelves. The retailer continues to work closely and cooperatively with the NFCU investigation to progress the case against the supplier. This is not a food safety issue but a matter of food fraud.
“Any fraud investigations of this nature take time to go through evidence and bring to any outcome, including any potential prosecution. We take food fraud very seriously and are acting urgently to protect the consumer.”
Update: This story was updated on Monday 13th March to reflect that Booths has confirmed it is the retailer: https://www.farmersguide.co.uk/booths-confirms-it-is-the-retailer-involved-in-fake-british-beef-scandal/