Farmers seek out food mislabelling


22 February 2000



Farmers seek out food mislabelling


FARMERS will be scanning the shelves of supermarkets as they begin an
investigation of labelling on Tuesday (22 February)

Some 3000 producers will check whether produce labelled British is indeed
from Britain, as part of an initiative by the National Farmers Union.

The NFU is assessing if country-of-origin labelling guidelines,
recommended by farming minister Nick Brown are being adhered to.

NFU head of marketing Helen Lo told the Radio 4 Farming Today
programme union research showed that consumers instinctively wanted to buy
British.

She said they understood that since BSE, British producers have had to put
in a large number of controls and practices to raise standards of
production.

Ms Lo said value for money, as well as price, was very important to
consumers.

“If value for money means they are getting a product produced to the
highest standards in the world, then thats accepted.”

She added that while these guidelines are not backed by legislation,
supermarkets have a moral duty to clearly label produce.

Ms Lo insisted the initiative was not not seeking to restrict trade, but
simply to have labelling stating the correct country of origin and country
of production.

Meanwhile, Tesco will start to label food as British in what it says is a
move to help British farmers.

But the chain is resisting calls simply to lower the price of British
goods.

A spokesman told Farming Today the price in the marketplace was
set by supply and demand, and margins were low on products like beef and
lamb.

He said flagging up British goods would help show customers where they
could get British food and reassure farmers Tesco was promoting British
goods.

He also announced the chain was spending £3 million to lower the price of British sausages.

The question of who picks up the cost of the change of labelling was
“part of the negotiation” on product costs, said the spokesman,

But he said the store was sensitive to difficulties facing farmers and
processors, and hoped this could be done without extra pressure on the supply
chain.

He said the store led the way in labelling, rationalising inspection, and
supporting the NFU assurance mark.

NFU president Ben Gill welcomed the Tesco initiatives, which will also see
the store offer workshops to young farmers.

Government research last week revealed that barely 10% of
consumers were concerned which country their purchases came from.

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