Farmers scrutinise wholesaler over Uruguayan beef re-labelling

The National Beef Association has raised serious concerns with wholesaler Booker over re-labelling of beef from Uruguay
The National Beef Association has raised serious concerns with wholesaler Booker over re-labelling of beef from Uruguay

Beef producers have written to wholesaler Booker to explain why the original source label for imported Uruguayan beef had been 'intentionally over-labelled'.

The wholesaler, owned by Tesco, is being scrutinised by the National Beef Association (NBA) on some of the procedures and processes discovered in its outlets.

In the letter, interim NBA chief executive Neil Shand said intentionally over-labelling Uruguayan beef with one from Booker’s own corporation 'obliterated' the majority of the original information, including the original best before date.

Mr Shand said: “Whilst we acknowledge and agree that labelling laws in the UK under the current EU legislative banner are vague to say the least, we understand that labelling over the original label is against the law.

“This therefore appears to be a breach of both Trading Standards and Environmental Health law.”

In response, Booker, which has 172 branches in the UK, referenced its strong support of the British meat industry, claiming this incident to be a case of human error and ‘not in line with our required procedure’.

The wholesaler added that it would 'now be carrying out spot checks', something which the NBA said suggested 'more widespread concern'.

In his letter, Mr Shand also raised the NBA's concerns over the freezing and shelf life of the product.

“Our understanding is that good practice laws on frozen beef suggest that it can be frozen for a period of up to six months, but certainly no more than 12 months.

“Your best before date of July 2021 from an animal slaughtered in November 2019 covers 20 months – a period way in excess of accepted norms,” he said.

Booker stated in response that ‘it is standard practice for the frozen food industry to give a two-year shelf life on frozen beef, lamb and pork which is frozen at source’.

But the NBA said it believed this was too long, and has called for a legal 12-month maximum time that beef can be frozen.

It comes as the body wrote to the bosses of Asda and Sainsbury's expressing disappointment at their decision to import Polish beef earlier this year.

UK processor ABP reportedly supplied hundreds of tonnes of imported beef - approximately 20 containers worth - to both supermarket chains.

NBA trustee Neil Shand told the firms that their decision to import Polish mince was ‘out of touch’ with current thinking, during a time when the country is ‘pulling together in a flush of patriotic fervour.’