Beef fraud: UK supermarket investigated for selling ‘British’ meat from overseas

A UK supermarket chain is being investigated by the National Food Crime Unit (NFCU) for selling meat sourced from South America and Europe, labelled as ‘best British beef’.

The retailer has been selling ‘large volumes’ of mislabelled pre-packed meat and deli products from across South America and Europe.

The NFCU, which is part of the Food Standards Agency, has not named the supermarket – although it is understood not to be Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Aldi, Lidl, Morrisons, the Co-op, Iceland, Marks & Spencer or Waitrose – but said the products had been supplied to the retailer by an external supplier and fraudulently labelled as British. Ocado has also said it is not implicated.

Waitrose commercial director Charlotte Di Cello told Grocery Gazette that the retailer knows “each and every farmer that produces our Waitrose beef”.

“That means our customers can shop with confidence knowing that when they buy fresh beef, it has come from a farm right here in the UK. At Waitrose, higher welfare means higher welfare and British means British. These standards are fundamental to our makeup and this will never change.”

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Talking to Farmers Weekly, Andrew Quinn, deputy head of the agency, confirmed it is investigating a supply of fraudulent meat and that the retailer in question has removed all affected products from its shelves.

“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,” he said.

“[It] continues to work closely and co-operatively with the NFCU investigation to progress the case against the supplier.

“This is not a food safety issue but a matter of food fraud.”

The ongoing investigation is reviewing around 1.3 million documents which specify products being sold to customers as “best British beef”.

The scandal comes ten years after the now infamous ‘horsemeat scandal’, which saw horsemeat being included in lasagne and other supermarket and branded ready meals. Millions of products were withdrawn across Europe, with significant business impact.

Meat industry experts have said it is likely the current scandal will be confined to just one supermarket.



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