Farmer confusion at Tesco labelling plans

Farmer confusion at Tesco labelling plans

The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) has heavily criticised what it claims are new Tesco proposals to introduce an ‘Irish-born, British-finished’ label which FUW allege will add to consumer confusion at a time when UK retailers should be seeking to clarify labelling and source more British born and reared produce.

FUW further allege that according to media reports, beef from cattle imported from Ireland for fattening in the UK could be labelled ‘Irish-born, British-finished’ in order to circumvent current labelling rules and allow a country flag to be placed on the label.

“Apart from undermining UK farmers and the UK market in general, the plans would simply add to existing confusion over food labelling and undermine consumer confidence which has already been severely dented by the horse meat scandal,” said FUW Denbighshire county chairman Iwan Jones. “Consumers are looking for clarity in terms of food labelling and certainty regarding the origin of their food. We already have reliable labelling in the form of British Beef and PGI Welsh Beef and we should be seeking to simplify what is already out there, not add to the confusion.”

Mr Jones said people did not want to be further confused by the type of label being considered. “Where the labelling is specifically aimed at circumventing rules it will either undermine confidence in the label or, more worryingly, undermine confidence in existing brands.”

Mr Jones also confirmed that the FUW had written to Tesco’s chief executive Philip Clarke highlighting its concerns and warned other supermarkets not to follow suit: “We sincerely hope that Tesco will not proceed with this plan, as it could be extremely damaging, and we would warn other supermarkets against considering similar approaches. The consumer deserves to know that meat they perceive as being British is genuinely British. “They need clarity not more confusion which will simply raise suspicions and dent consumer confidence,” Mr Jones added.

However, a report in the Irish Independent newspaper has thrown doubt on the allegations and states that Andy Foot, the beef chairman at the NFU, has said that Tesco management in Britain has assured NFU that the supermarket chain has no plans to increase volumes of beef being sold through the ‘Irish-born, British-finished’ labelling system. Furthermore, according to the report, NFU have also confirmed that “We’ve been told that there’s no truth in it whatsoever,” and said it totally dismissed the reports.

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