Groceries chain probe after South American meat labelled ‘British’

A supermarket chain is under investigation after it was found to be selling meat from South America under the label “best British beef”. The National Food Crime Unit, part of the Food Standards Agency, launched the investigation and revealed that a supplier has been selling “large volumes” of pre-packed meat and deli products from South America and Europe to the retailer in question.

The latest food probe comes 10 years after the horsemeat scandal, in which the meat was being sold as beef in lasagna and other ready meals, shocked Britain.

Reginald Bevan, deputy head of the NFCU, told Farmers Weekly that a “massive investigation” involving the review of about 1.3 million documents is underway into one of the supermarkets’ suppliers. The retailer has since pulled the products from supermarket shelves. 

While the NCFU has not named the supermarket impacted, it is believed that none of the UK’s main supermarkets – Asda, Sainsburys, Tesco, Morrisons or Aldi – is affected.

The scandal has drawn the ire of LibDem, Labour and food unions which hit at the yet-known supermarket chain.

LibDem Environment spokesperson Tim Farron told the Daily Mail that the supermarket should be “named and shamed”. 

He said: “British farmers need the backing of supermarkets to get through these difficult times. Farmers aren’t getting the help they need from Government and already face powerful supermarkets who constantly make unreasonable demands.”

Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Jim McMahon MP suggested the incident shows “the lessons of the horsemeat” have not been learnt.

He said: “We were told the lessons of the horsemeat scandal had been learnt, but unfortunately this investigation could cast that into doubt.

“There are clearly very serious questions to answer and it’s right that an urgent investigation is currently underway.

“The next Labour Government will support British farmers and food production by ensuring that we buy, make and sell more great British food.”

The Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS) said: “It is only today that we have found the product concerned is beef, and it is our belief, given the popularity of sliced cooked beef across all trade channels, that its sale by food fraudsters will not have been limited to a single supermarket.”

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Andrew Quinn, deputy head of the NFCU, confirmed the retailer in question is working closely with the investigation. 

He told Farmers Weekly: “This is not a food safety issue, but a matter of food fraud. 

“Any fraud investigations of this nature take time to go through the evidence and bring to any outcome, including any potential prosecution. We take food fraud very seriously and are acting urgently to protect the consumer.”

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