British beef farmers have expressed concerns over the alleged re-labelling of Uruguayan beef.
The National Beef Association (NBA) has penned a letter to wholesaler Booker to question its response to earlier correspondence.
Concerns have been raised in relation to some of the procedures and processes discovered in some of its outlets. NBA said there also appears to be unclear details on freezing and shelf life.
Interim NBA chief executive Neil Shand wrote a letter to the Tesco-owned wholesaler on September 1st, 2020.
He asked them to explain why the original source label for imported Uruguayan beef had been intentionally over-labelled with one from Booker’s own corporation, “obliterating” the majority of the original information, including the original best before date.
In response, Booker 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 also said it ‘will now be carrying out spot checks.
However, in a follow-up visit to one of Booker’s Warwickshire stores last week, the NBA once again found labelling issues. “It appears that, in spite of assurances, the same humans are still making the same errors.”
“As our pictures show, a Booker label is once again applied on top of the original label, obliterating most of the original information.”
“Only the best before date can be seen – both the freezing and slaughter date have been covered – which is contrary to FSA Regulations,” adds Mr Shand.
“The second picture is even more concerning. Although the original and the subsequently applied Booker labels are distinctly separate, the shelf life is influenced.”
The group said the original foreign language Uruguayan label shows a best before date of March 2021. The new Booker label extends this date to July 2021.
The NBA feels the “fail-safes and new procedures promised were nothing more than lip service”. The organisation said it is seriously concerned about these practices.
“Much of this beef will end up in the service sector – pubs, restaurants, hospitals, schools – and will be fed to unsuspecting consumers with no idea where the beef has come from, when it was slaughtered or that it has been sat in a freezer for 23 months,” added Shand in his letter.
“It is well documented that a shorter freezer life points to a better quality product. Longer best before dates, therefore, have the potential for a bad taste experience, which may turn consumers away from a valuable source of protein.”
On behalf of the NBA, Mr Shand believes transparency, accuracy and honesty in labelling is imperative. He stressed it is the responsibility of all retailers to ensure that the customer is allowed an informed choice.