Supermarkets and other retailers are to be told that beef from different countries must be clearly separated in chill cabinets – otherwise they will be liable to prosecution.

The move follows a complaint from the National Beef Association to retail specialists at the Local Authority Co-ordination Office on Regulatory Services (LACORS).

The NBA said many consumers were being misled because they were picking up beef believing it to be British, only to discover later it had been imported.

“LACORS specialists have agreed that retail beef should not be arranged in a way that confuses consumers and that retailers who stock product from different countries of origin must make sure there is clearly visible separation, perhaps through the use of strong plastic strips,” said NBA chief executive Robert Forster.

The LACORS guidance should be enforced by Trading Standards or Environmental Health officials.