VEGA News Item

Trading Standards Officers Withhold "Huge" Fines on Meat Trade - 29/04/2008
Survey finds “a third of meat labelled wrongly”
TSOs have “promised not to hit retailers with huge fines following the discovery that up to a third of meat sold in shops may be incorrectly labelled – as long as they make the effort to stamp out the problem,” reports The Grocer 26 April 2008. Weeks ago, Staffordshire Trading Standards carried out an investigation of supermarkets, small shops, butchers, and processors in the county in which they revealed up to a third of meats contained meat not identified on the label. They have since reported that “this figure could be reflected nationwide.”

Businesses found guilty of inaccurate labelling can be fined up to £20,000. However, Staffordshire TSOs were “keen to work with violators to ensure a remedy to the problem.” Amanda Farrell, lead officer for food, says that “a verbal slap on the wrist is the way forward. We want to get compliance.”

In his advice Phil Thomas, head of commercial regulation, said that “retailers should not be afraid to flag up any instances of mislabelling. However, those that continued to ignore the rules and were ‘knowingly defrauding the customer’ would be prosecuted.” It would be up to local TSOs to define their own approach.

Contaminated products identified in the Staffordshire investigation included beef and lamb mince, pork sausages, beef burgers, steak pies, and lamb samosas. Halal products were also found to contain other meats, but none contained pork. Minced lamb was found to be most likely to be affected, with two thirds of the lamb samples being “adulterated” with beef and or pork.

The British Retail Consortium fails to corroborate the Staffordshire findings, but they must be enough to alert customers for alternative meat and dairy products to misleading labels and suspect “free ranging” assurances on treatment and care of animals on the farm, in transit, and at slaughter. These reservations pertain also to marks and logos of monitoring and approval by organizations with means of inspection and enforcement weaker that the TSOs’. They also raise yet again the contrast in TSOs, working for and subject to local authorities and interests, with the operations of the State Veterinary Service and the Meat Hygiene Services, which are established inspectorates under national control or collaboration with the services of the Food Standards Agency.  

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