Tesco-owned wholesaler Booker has been under fire in the farming press this week following a labelling issue with some of its beef products.
Farmers Guardian reported that the company had been “caught relabelling Uruguayan beef”, prompting calls for “transparency in the foodservice sector”.
The news follows a Footprint survey this month that revealed some major foodservice and hospitality brands were relying heavily on overseas markets for their meat. More than half the 25 leading chains failed to disclose any information on their meat sourcing policies.
The labelling of Booker’s beef has also led to concerns about the lengthy shelf-life of meat products in the wholesale supply chain. A two-year gap between freezing and consumption for beef, lamb and pork can lead to “bad experiences” in pubs and restaurants, the National Beef Association (NBA) told Farmers Guardian.
“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,” claimed the association’s interim chief executive Neil Shand in a letter to Booker.
The original source label for Booker’s imported Uruguayan beef had been “intentionally over-labelled with one from [the wholesaler’s] own corporation, obliterating the majority of the original information, including the original best before date”, according to the NBA.
The NBA said labelling laws are “vague” but “labelling over the original label is against the law”. Shand said both trading standards and environmental health law had been breached.
Booker blamed human error in responses sent to the farming press and the NBA. Booker also said “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”.
The NBA has challenged this and called for beef to be frozen for a legal maximum of 12-months.