The NFU said that fictional farm brands could lead consumers to believe products were from the UK, when they could actually be from another country.
NFU president Meurig Raymond said: “The NFU’s legal team has looked at this carefully and, as a result, we are asking the Chartered Trading Standards Institute to look at whether ‘fake’ farm branding complies with the relevant legal requirements.”
The NFU specifically highlighted Tesco’s ‘Woodside Farms’ and ‘Boswell Farms’ as brands that could mislead customers.
‘Urge all retailers’
“I have spoken to senior management at Tesco to highlight our members’ concerns about the use of these fake farm brands,” said Raymond.
“I urge all retailers to consider seriously the results of our survey, which show that mixing imported product with British product under the same fictional farm name can be misleading to many of their customers.”
In response to the NFU’s complaint, a Tesco spokesman said: “Our research shows customers really enjoy our new farms range with two-thirds buying from the range since its launch, and understand where the products come from, with the country of origin clearly labelled on pack.
“We source from the UK wherever possible, but also offer the best in-season produce, from farms and growers around the world so shoppers can buy their favourite produce all year round.
“We work closely with the NFU and British farmers and growers to ensure we offer affordable fresh produce to our customers.”
In a YouGov survey commissioned by the NFU, of all 1,796 respondents that said the ‘fake’ farm products were in their opinion either ‘definitely’ or ‘probably’ British, 60% said they would feel misled if this was not the case.
Similarly, 20% of people said they were unclear as to whether the fictional farm brands were real farms.
“These fake farm brands are completely unacceptable and we believe are misleading consumers,” said NFU Cymru president Stephen James.
“In particular, NFU members feel the brands confuse shoppers about the country of origin of the food products in question.
Country of origin labelling is important because we know from consumer surveys that shoppers want to buy British food products.”
Meanwhile, discount retailer Aldi, which uses the controversial farm brand ‘Ashfield Farm’, committed to only using British products for their fictional farm brands by next year.
Raymond said: “I am pleased that Aldi has now made a commitment to only source British product in their fictional farm brands by the end of March 2017.”
What they say about 'fake' farms:
“These fake farm brands are completely unacceptable and we believe are misleading consumers,”
“[Customers] understand where the products come from, with the country of origin clearly labelled on pack.”
“All of our fresh meat and poultry products sold under Strathvale Farm in Scotland are Scottish and Red Tractor Assured, and all of our fresh meat and poultry apart from some lamb lines (as dictated by seasonal availability) sold in the rest of Britain is British and Red Tractor Assured. We have made a commitment to source all of our fresh listed lamb from British farmers from the 1st July 2016 until the end of the year. Additionally, we sell Scotch lamb all year round in Scotland.
“We have very clear labeling on our packaging denoting country of origin, ensuring that customers can make fully informed purchasing decisions.”
- Lidl UK