UK and Irish foods stand up to origin test

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has not found any misleading information in a study looking at foods which have UK and Ireland country of origin claims.

Published today (29 July), the study used a screening technique known as stable isotope ratio analysis (SIRA) as well as traceability documentation to ascertain whether foods on sale claiming to be from the UK and Ireland were misleading or not. Of the 96 samples of beef, pork, lamb, apple juice, tomatoes and honey, none were identified as making spurious claims.

Andrew Rhodes, chief operating officer at the FSA, said: “It’s vital that consumers are provided with a true picture as to where the food they buy comes from. If it says its produce is from the UK then it should be. We wanted, in this study, to check whether people were receiving accurate information on the origin of their food and the results are reassuring for consumers and businesses.

“We also wanted to gain experience of using the relatively new SIRA technology as a tool to show the country of origin of foodstuffs. We found SIRA effective in raising questions about where a food comes from, but we relied on traceability information to further investigate origin.”

The FSA said the samples were mostly taken from retail or wholesale outlets, although four samples of raw beef burgers were obtained from caterers. It added: “The samples were not fully representative of the market, but, within the limitations of a small study, provided a reasonable spread across retailers and across the four countries of the UK. Samples were taken from both top-end food ranges and economy ranges."

NFU Scotland’s food chain relationships policy manager Kylie Barclay said: “It is very positive that this survey did not identify any cases of food on sale with misleading origin claims.  SIRA is an exciting technology which can help to verify country of origin labelling (COOL) and this study is a useful indicator of the viability of this technology in evaluating origin claims.

“To preserve consumer confidence, it is important that we have such technology available, alongside other traceability evidence, to ensure that COOL claims made on the pack are true. Farmers and growers in Scotland and throughout the UK quite rightly take pride in their produce and it is only right that when consumers buy British or Scottish produce to support farmers, they are confident that what is on the label is what is in the packet."

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