Fraud inquiry launched after foreign pork allegedly sold as British

Foreign pork falsely labelled as British appears to have been sold by leading supermarkets, according to a new report released as the Food Standards Agency (FSA) launched an investigation into supply chain fraud.

An investigation by the trade publication Farmers Weekly has found that until at least the end of 2020, one of the UK’s top food manufacturers has been selling mislabelled and sometimes rotten meat to retailers.

Meat produced by the company is reported to have ended up in products such as ready meals, quiches, sandwiches and other produce sold in Tesco, Asda, Co-op, Morrisons and Marks & Spencer.

The investigation found that each week, tens of thousands of tonnes of foreign pork mislabelled as British found its way into the supply chain.

The processor, which has not yet been named by the FSA, has also been accused by former employees of regularly “washing” visibly off hams in salt water, and of mixing rotting pork with fresh product for further processing.

Darren Davies, head of the FSA’s national food crime unit, said: “[We are] carrying out a criminal investigation into how a supplier was allegedly providing products labelled as British when they were in fact sourced from elsewhere.

“This is a complex and live investigation and we are looking into all new lines of enquiry with our partner organisations, including any potential food hygiene breaches at the premises. If any evidence of a food safety risk is found, then necessary action will be taken.

“The FSA advised retailers last year to check their cooked meat supply chain and to apply extra due diligence in their checks. We don’t give out these alerts without a reason.

“We will not name the supplier while we painstakingly gather evidence to support our investigation so as not to prejudice any possible future action by the courts.”

Davies warned that the cost of living crisis could mean that food fraud increases as suppliers face pressure to turn a profit. He said: “As a national regulator, we are the last line of defence. At a time when cost pressures and other challenges mean the risks of food fraud might be increasing, it is vital that everyone involved in the food system remains extra vigilant to ensure that food is safe and what it says it is.”

On behalf of all the affected supermarkets, the British Retail Consortium said: “The role of the FSA is to work with retailers to prevent fraud. While we cannot comment on an ongoing investigation, retailers will support the FSA with its investigation into the individual supplier in question.”

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Farmers Weekly said British farmers had been “ripped off” by mislabelled meat, and called for tighter regulations to prevent the recurrence of the practice.

Andrew Meredith, the magazine’s editor, said: “When trade deals are being signed that will allow the flow of imports into the country ever more easily, it is essential that the provenance of homegrown produce is stronger than ever.

“We cannot and should not be able to compel consumers to only buy British, but there must be an ironclad guarantee that when they choose to do so, they are getting the real deal.”


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