Trading Standards targeting 'misleading' meat

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Pubs can expect local trading standards officers to take an increasing interest in their menus as concern grows that consumers are being misled about...

Pubs can expect local trading standards officers to take an increasing interest in their menus as concern grows that consumers are being misled about country of origin.

With customers increasingly willing to pay a premium for genuinely local beef and other meat, pubs may find they are being misled by suppliers about the provenance of produce.

A Northumberland butcher was recently fined £1,800 and ordered to pay £1,200 in costs by magistrates after local trading standards officers found beef from Namibia in his coldroom, despite a claim that "all our meat is bought from local Tynedale farms".

As a result of this and similar cases, watchdogs are now taking a greater interest in claims made by pubs and restaurants about the origin of meat.

The Meat & Livestock Commission (MLC) has already launched a campaign for clear labeling of origin on menus. It has cited the example of Aberdeen Angus, which is a breed which can be farmed anywhere in the world, but which many consumers assume is made from cattle reared in Scotland.

The National Farmer's Union said it is difficult to gauge the level of deliberately fraudulent claims made by suppliers about meat sold to pub, but supports the MLC's call for tighter regulations due to genuine consumer confusion.

Robin Tapper, senior adviser, food chain relations with the NFU, told The Publican: "It's precisely to prevent this kind of mislabeling that we want to see improved information about the origin of meat given to consumers, not just in supermarkets, but also in pubs and restaurants."

Mr Tapper added that issues such as the country of origin of Aberdeen Angus "are just adding to the confusion, which is why we want to see far more use of labeling initiatives such as our own Red Tractor scheme. There are rules on provenance, but at the moment I'm not sure they're widely understood, let alone followed."

A spokesperson for the English Beef and Lamb Executive (EBLEX), said: "The practice of deliberately misleading consumers on country of origin labeling is one which must be condemned. Consumers buying beef and lamb carrying the EBLEX Quality Standard Mark can be sure the scheme is independently audited to ensure the traceability criteria is met

"Eating quality is also governed by the scheme so chefs and their suppliers can be confident about both the origin and the quality of the product as part of a fully assured supply chain."

Northumberland County Council confirmed it plans to visit more than 1o00 shops, restaurants, pubs and take-aways in the county in the next year. Trading standards staff will look at food descriptions, as well as sell-by date and "tipping" - the passing off counterfeit and substitute spirits for the real thing.

Jim Rutter, head of Trading Standards, said: "Everyone involved in the supply of food has a responsibility to the consumer.

"We will come down hard on businesses which mislead consumers about the origin of food and who put the health of consumers at risk by selling food past use by dates."

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