CIEH ‘deeply concerned’ about reports of mislabelled rotting meat being supplied to British supermarkets

31 March 2023, Ciaran Donaghy

CIEH are ‘deeply concerned’ about reports that a rogue meat supplier has been supplying British supermarket and food manufacturers with mislabelled mixed meat produce.

The allegations suggest that the supplier, who cannot be named for legal reasons, mixed rotting meat from Europe and South America with fresh meat, labelled it as British before supplying this to household supermarkets such as Tesco, Asda, Co-op and Marks and Spencer.

A criminal investigation has been launched by the Food Standard’s Agency’s (FSA) Food Crime Unit (FCU), investigating how products sourced from Europe and South America could incorrectly be labelled as British, as well as investigating any food hygiene breaches.

This investigation illustrates a rather concerning recent trend following a spate of recent stories regarding the illegal import of food products as well as mislabelled food stuffs making its way into our supply chain. Given the recent outbreak of African Swine Fever, and with the ‘horsemeat scandal’ still fresh in the memories of many, CIEH are concerned that despite best efforts, these cases illustrate that vulnerabilities still persist.

Environmental Health Practitioners (EHPs) play a vital role in conducting food hygiene inspections, either within local authority environmental health teams, or within the private sector to ensure food business operators comply with regulations in advance of local inspections. They stand willing and ready to work closely with the FSA’s FCU in supporting their investigation, and CIEH would encourage the FCU to work closely with the CIEH and our members on the ground to ensure a joined-up, coordinated approach to intelligence sharing that can aid this investigation.

CIEH are deeply concerned with the allegations that rotting meat produce sourced from Europe and South America could be mixed with fresh meat and fraudulently be labelled as British. CIEH await the findings from the FSA’s Food Crime Unit on this troubling issue to determine how exactly such a flagrant breach of our food standards could have happened.

Helen Buckingham, independent environmental health consultant specialising in imported food, said:

“It is the early stages of this investigation and it is important that we don’t leap to any conclusions ahead of the facts. However, off the back of a recent rise in food crime in the news lately, it would be remiss not to make comparisons to the ‘Horsegate’ scandal ten years ago and the foot and mouth headlines ten years before that.

Since then, most retailers have worked extremely hard to get things right following the findings of the Elliott Review but perhaps some gaps remain and it’s time to revisit?

African Swine Fever within the EU poses a current threat to animal health and our farmers so any vulnerabilities in the system, whether they be traceability or hygiene related – must be fully investigated.

I’m sure environmental health colleagues will be watching with interest and using their considerable skills and knowledge to support the FSA’s investigation and ensure a co-ordinated and robust approach.”

Ross Matthewman, Head of Policy and Campaigns at CIEH, said:

“We are deeply concerned with reports that rotting meat has been mixed with fresh meat, mislabelled as British and is being supplied to some of our most well-known supermarkets.

The UK enjoys some of the highest standards in both food safety and consumer protection because of the high regulatory standards we have which provides consumers with the confidence that what they are consuming is exactly what the label says it is.

We would encourage the FSA and the FCU to work closely with the CIEH and our members to ensure a joined-up, coordinated approach is taken with respect to intelligence gathering and exchange so that we can quickly get to the bottom of how this happened.”


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