Don’t decriminalise food labelling offences: Which?

By Mike Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Sausage, Meat

Meaty question: Own-label or branded sausages, where can shoppers find the best value?
Meaty question: Own-label or branded sausages, where can shoppers find the best value?
Consumer watchdog Which? has repeated its plea to government not to decriminalise food labelling offences.

Richard Lloyd, Which? executive director, said: “In the wake of the horsemeat scandal, we want the government ​[in England, Wales and Northern Ireland] to think again over their plans to decriminalise food labelling offences to help restore trust in the food industry.”

The watchdog reported that eight in 10 people (79%) checked the ingredients and meat content on labelling but worried legislative changes could ultimately restrict choice.

The latest warning came as the watchdog claimed some supermarket own-label sausages contain more meat than leading brands and offer better value for money.

Its investigation revealed that while Richmond thick sausages and Sainsbury’s Basics pork sausages contained the same meat content (42%), the branded bangers cost three times as much, at £2.40 per pack, compared with the Basics sausages at 80p.

Twice as much meat

Also, Sainsbury’s premium range pork sausages cost 59p more than Richmond’s sausages but offered twice as much meat. Their meat content was 97% and the premium range cost £2.99 per pack.

Moreover, cheaper supermarket products may not always deliver better value when judged by meat content and cost. Asda Butchers Selection British Pork Sausages cost only 23p more per kg than Asda Pork sausages – costing £5.66 per kg compared with £5.43 per kg. But they contained much more meat at72% compared with 56% respectively.

Sausages and bacon are the nation’s most popular meat products – bought by three-quarters (74%) of UK shoppers.

The Which? investigation found that the premium range benefit sometimes applied to other meat products. Birds Eye Original beef burgers cost £8.30 per kg  and contained 77% meat, while Tesco’s quarter pound beef burgers contained 90% beef and cost £6.12 per kg.

Lloyd said: “Branded goods don’t always provide the best value for money, as we’ve found shoppers can get more banger for their buck by choosing supermarket own-brand sausages.”

Branded goods

Meat products must comply with strict food labelling guidelines. Pork sausages must contain at least 42% pork meat to be labelled as such.

But products sold as sausages must contain only 32% pork, 26% chicken or 30% beef or lamb.

The organisation surveyed 2,002 UK adults online between May 9 and 13 about their views on meat products.

A range of sausages were included in addition to Richmond and Sainsbury own-label brands. Those included products from Asda and Wall’s.

More information on the Which? survey is available here​.

Last month Sue Davies, Which?’s chief policy advisor, also urged the government to scrap plans​ to decriminalise labelling offences.

Meanwhile, earlier this week City analyst Shore Capital warned that Sainsbury’s own-label food sales​ were hurting brands. “Own-label food sales​ [at Sainsbury] had risen significantly across the quarter, with branded sales being broadly flat,” ​said Darren Shirley.

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