Seven top food chains shamed for selling imported veg under UK farm banners

The huge signs that adorn the displays of fruit and veg in our supermarkets might tempt you to think you are enjoying all the flavour of rural Britain.

But shoppers expecting local produce below them should take a careful look at where the goods actually come from.

A Sunday Mirror probe found seven of our top chains selling imported fruit and veg below banners plugging UK farms.

At M&S, a display carried a ­reassuring “Best of British” Union Jack logo, alongside a mouth-watering photograph of raspberries, and promised: “Best of the season.”

Yet the raspberries on the shelf actually gave their “country of origin” as Portugal.

And alongside were cherries from 7,000 miles away in Chile, and strawberries that had come 2,300 miles from Egypt.

In fact, not a single berry on the display at M&S in Canary Wharf, East London, came from the UK.

We found similar examples at branches of Tesco, Waitrose, Lidl, Asda, Morrisons and Aldi after our secret shoppers combed the aisles in London, the Midlands and the North West this week.

In most cases, homegrown offerings were there too – surrounded by foreign produce.

Jack Ward, head of the British Growers Association, said suppliers do buy from the UK, but claimed: “You can’t say this is anything other than misleading.”

Given the choice, a 2018 survey by Young’s Seafood found 70 per cent of shoppers would always buy British-made food – and super­markets are keen to cash in.

Tesco and Asda branches cited specific British farmers in banners sitting over produce grown abroad.

An Asda in Altrincham, Gtr Manchester, detailed a strawberry farm in Staffordshire – above fruit from Egypt and Morocco.

At a Tesco Metro in Canary Wharf, a huge sign plugged a farm that has grown fruit for the chain for 20 years.

It urged shoppers to “Enjoy the taste of Hampshire”.

The apples directly below were from France.

Beneath another banner boasting of “working with more British farmers” was UK lettuce – along with more of the crop from Spain and Portugal.

And customers at a London Lidl were promised “Red Tractor assured produce (100% British, of course)” – yet among imported goods alongside that from the UK were Colombian bananas and Costa Rican pineapples.

Lidl assured us the signs were used “to inform customers where Red Tractor Assured items feature within a range of products” – and that individual items were labelled on the pack.

Meanwhile, Tesco insisted it offered “a wide selection of top quality British fruit and veg all year round”, but explained: “To make sure we offer full choice throughout the seasons, we also source from abroad.”

Our team also found a sign at Waitrose in Worcester showing the chain’s Hampshire farm – while the selection of apples below included Italian fruit.

Waitrose told us: “We’d never mislead customers. We have a market-leading British range and always clearly show where produce is from.”

Banners at Morrisons in Bromsgrove, Worcs, promise they work “directly with trusted British growers”, while a London Aldi boasts of “championing Great British quality”.

In both cases, there was overseas fruit and veg.

Morrisons said: “This sign is central in our fruit and veg aisle. We’re British farming’s biggest supermarket customer and when in season we always source British first.”

And Aldi told us it sources “British produce wherever possible, which is reflected in our in-store signage”.

Asda added: “We have a great relationship with British farmers and are proud to stock their fruit and veg.”

Only Sainsbury’s did not appear to use the “buy British” branding.

M&S said its display was out of date and should have been removed. They added: “We always source from British farmers in season.”

Trading Standards told us a judge could only rule case by case – as signs do not claim all produce is British, and individual items are correctly labelled.

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