Leading supermarkets, including Asda and Morrisons, have swiftly distanced themselves from an investigation into alleged “beef fraud” at a supplier that sells produce to a British grocery chain.
The supplier is accused of selling “large volumes” of pre-packed meat and deli products from South America and Europe to the unnamed retailer, which is said to pride itself on selling only the “best British beef”.
The National Food Crime Unit (NFCU) told Farmers Weekly it is overseeing the investigation, but declined to name the retailer in question.
It is understood that none of the so-called “big five supermarkets” – Tesco, Sainsbury’s Asda, Aldi and Morrisons – is caught up in the investigation. Multiple grocers rushed to confirm that they were not the affected retailer, which has reportedly removed the supplier’s products from its shelves.
They include Sainsbury’s, Asda, Aldi, Morrisons, Co-Op, Lidl, M&S, Waitrose and Ocado.
The investigation into the supplier is said to involve a review of 1.3 million documents by the NFCU, part of the Food Standards Authority.
It comes a decade after a host of British supermarkets and restaurant operators became embroiled in a Europe-wide food scandal, when it emerged foods including burgers and ready meals were being fraudulently passed off as beef when they actually contained horsemeat.
The memory of the “horsegate” scandal continues to loom large for suppliers and retailers who battled for years to regain the trust of British consumers.
Neil Shand, chief executive of the National Beef Association, said anyone found to be falsely labelling or adulterating food products should “have the book thrown at them”.
Minette Batters, president of the National Farmers Union, said: “Horsegate brought this country, as all food scares do, to a standstill and created a huge level of mistrust.
She added: “We have to learn lessons from that era.”