Booths is named as supermarket chain caught up in row over South American meat sold as ‘best British beef’ – 10 years after horsemeat scandal
- Booths emphasised they ‘are categorically not under investigation by the NFCU’
Booths has confirmed it is the supermarket linked to a food fraud investigation over the passing off of imported beef as British.
MPs had said there are ‘very serious questions to answer’ about how a UK supermarket has become embroiled in a major beef fraud investigation.
The National Food Crime Unit (NFCU), part of the Food Standards Agency earlier said pre-packed meat and deli products from South America and Europe have been supplied to the retailer and labelled as British.
The investigation involves the review of about 1.3 million documents with products being sold to customers as ‘best British beef’, Farmers Weekly reported.
The NFCU did not name the supermarket caught up in the scandal but it was revealed as Booths by The Grocer, who said the retailer confirmed this afternoon it had been ‘working closely and co-operatively with the NFCU since being made aware of potential food fraud issues in 2021’.
But Booths emphasised they ‘are categorically not under investigation by the NFCU.’
‘Booths support for the investigation relates to a limited selection of cooked meat products and Booths have no knowledge of any other aspects of the investigation,’ a statement said (stock image)
The investigation involves the review of about 1.3 million documents with products being sold to customers as ‘best British beef’, according to reports (file image)
A spokeswoman for Booths told MailOnline: ‘Following some recent speculation Booths Supermarkets can confirm that they have been working closely and co-operatively with the National Food Crime Unit (NFCU) since being made aware of potential food fraud issues in 2021.
‘Booths are categorically NOT under investigation by the NFCU.
‘Booths support for the investigation relates to a limited selection of cooked meat products and Booths have no knowledge of any other aspects of the investigation.
‘At the point of being made aware of the potential issues in 2021 Booths acted instantly, removing all relevant products from sale and ceased trading with the supplier with immediate effect.
‘Booths would like to confirm that fresh meat, poultry and game products are entirely unaffected by this investigation and that with the exception of the limited selection of cooked meat products impacted in 2021 Booths is absolutely confident in its British only meat commitment.
‘It is also important to note the whilst the NFCU investigation relates to a potential serious food fraud incident, this is not a food safety issue.
‘Issues of provenance, traceability, honesty and authenticity are of the highest importance to Booths and the business has been fully co-operating with and supporting the work of the NFCU for the past 18 months.
‘It is important that the NFCU is able to complete its investigations in an objective and impartial manner. The NFCU continue to have the full support of Booths and to that effect, Booths will make no further comment at this stage, any further enquiries relating to this matter should be directed to the NFCU.’
Labour’s shadow environment secretary Jim McMahon earlier said: ‘We were told the lessons of the horsemeat scandal had been learnt, but unfortunately this investigation could cast that into doubt.
‘There are clearly very serious questions to answer and it’s right that an urgent investigation is currently under way.’
In 2013, horsemeat was discovered in the food supply chain in products being sold as beef.
Millions of products were withdrawn all over Europe at great cost to the industry and the UK economy.
Andrew Quinn, deputy head of the NFCU, confirmed the agency is investigating a supply of fraudulent pre-packed sliced meat and deli products.
He said: ‘The retailer was notified on the same day that we took action against the food business suspected of the fraud and immediately removed all affected products from their shelves.
‘The retailer continues to work closely and co-operatively with the NFCU investigation to progress the case against the supplier. This is not a food safety issue but a matter of food fraud.
‘Any fraud investigations of this nature take time to go through evidence and bring to any outcome, including any potential prosecution. We take food fraud very seriously and are acting urgently to protect the consumer.’
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