NFU complains to Trading Standards over Tesco fake farms

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has formally complained to the National Trading Standards Institute over the use of ‘fake’ farm branding by retailers on food products. 

This follows concerns expressed by NFU members in a survey that the use of ‘fake’ farm labels can be misleading for shoppers. Over three in five respondents to a YouGov survey commissioned by the NFU, who said these farm products in their view were ‘definitely’ or ‘probably’ British, would feel misled if this was not the case and were told that the product could be from another country.

It cited  Tesco’s ‘Woodside Farms’ and ‘Boswell Farms’ as a recent and high-profile example of this practice.

Meurig Raymond, NFU president, said: “The NFU’s legal team has looked at this carefully and, as a result, we are asking Trading Standards Institute to look at whether ‘fake’ farm branding complies with the relevant legal requirements.

“I have spoken to senior management at Tesco to highlight our members’ concerns about the use of these fake farm brands. I urge all retailers to consider seriously the results of our survey, which show that mixing imported products with British products under the same fictional farm name can be misleading to many of their customers. I am pleased that Aldi has now made a commitment to only source British product in its fictional farm brands by the end of March 2017.

“British farming is proud of its high standards and the NFU would be delighted to work with retailers to ensure that customers are given clear and unambiguous information about where their food comes from.”

NFU Cymru president Stephen James, speaking at the start of this year’s Royal Welsh Show, said: “These fake farm brands are completely unacceptable and, we believe, are misleading to consumers. This practice has been going on across the retail sector for a long time and enough is enough.

“In particular, NFU members feel the brands confuse shoppers about the country of origin of the food products in question. Country-of-origin labelling is important, because we know from consumer surveys that shoppers want to buy British food products; clearly, consumers cannot exercise that choice without clear country-of-origin labelling.

“That’s why we have now written to Trading Standards to argue our point and to ask for clear guidelines for retailers on the clarity of country-of-origin labelling.”

In response to the NFU, Tesco claimed the farm brands range had gone through all necessary checks with Trading Standards.

A spokesperson for Tesco said: “British produce is an important part of the food we offer customers. While we always strive to source from the UK, we look for what we believe to be the best in-season produce, from the best farms with the best growers and farmers from all over the world, so that shoppers can buy their favourite produce all year round.

“With over two-thirds of our customers having bought products in the range, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, as they have recognised the great quality and outstanding value they offer.”

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