National Beef Association
For everyone with an interest in the British beef industry

NBA dismiss ‘lip-service’ response as more misleading labelling found at Booker store

2nd November 2020

Region: National

The National Beef Association (NBA) has once again written to wholesaler Booker to question its response to earlier correspondence relating to some of the procedures and processes discovered in some of its outlets, including the re-labelling of Uruguayan beef, and unclear details on freezing and shelf life.

In an earlier letter, dated 1st September 2020, Interim NBA chief executive Neil Shand had asked the Tesco-owned wholesaler to explain why the original source label for imported Uruguayan beef had been intentionally over-labelled with one from Booker’s own corporation, obliterating the majority of the original information, including the original best before date.

In response, Booker referenced its strong support of the British meat industry, claiming this incident to be a case of human error and ‘not in line with our required procedure’. The wholesaler also said it ‘will now be carrying out spot checks’.

However, despite such reassurances, in a follow up visit to one of Booker’s Warwickshire stores last week, the NBA once again found labelling issues.

“It appears that, in spite of assurances, the same humans are still making the same errors,” says Mr Shand in his latest letter to Booker.

“As our pictures show, a Booker label is once again applied on top of the original label, obliterating most of the original information.  Only the best before date can be seen – both the freezing and slaughter date have been covered, which is contrary to FSA Regulations,” adds Mr Shand.

“The second picture is even more concerning. Although the original and the subsequently applied Booker labels are distinctly separate, the shelf life is influenced. The original foreign language Uruguayan label shows a best before date of March 2021, the new Booker label extends this date to July 2021.

The NBA feels that the fail-safes and new procedures promised were nothing more than lip service, and are seriously concerned about these practices.

“Much of this beef will end up in the service sector – pubs, restaurants, hospitals, schools - and will be fed to unsuspecting consumers with no idea where the beef has come from, when it was slaughtered or that it has been sat in a freezer for 23 months,” adds Mr Shand in his letter.

“It is well documented that a shorter freezer life points to a better quality product - longer best before dates therefore have the potential for a bad taste experience, which may turn consumers away from a valuable source of protein,” he adds.

On behalf of the NBA, Mr Shand believes transparency, accuracy and honesty in labelling is imperative, and it is the responsibility of all retailers to ensure that the customer is allowed an informed choice.