Posted: 10/06/2019

Farm shop meat fakery shows butchery fraud still an issue

Six years after the “Horsegate” scandal, the meat industry still has much work to do to convince the public of honest practices and sourcing transparency, experts have warned.

The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) told FFD: “Nothing much has changed” after a Warwickshire butcher was jailed for fraud for 33 months and fined £300,000 for selling foreign meat promoted as “Best of British”.

Simon Drust, 50, who owned The Meat Shack in Studley, was selling  mislabelled, and often out-of-date, Dutch pork, New Zealand lamb and Brazilian beef, passed off as meat from Aberdeen Angus and Hereford breeds. 

Many more cases could go undiscovered because of what a CTSI spokeswoman said was a lack of resources allocated to trading standards departments for carrying out spot checks and testing.

David Lishman, chairman of the Q Guild of Butchers and owner of Lishman’s of Ilkley in the Yorkshire Dales, said butchers who behave in this way damage the credibility of those retailers who are doing a good job.

 “You will always find rogue traders who are relabelling and rebranding just to make a quick buck,” he said. “I’m pleased to say I don’t come across this in the circles I move in.”

“It emphasises the need for good traders to educate their customers about what they are doing right.”

He said the horse meat scandal had been driven “purely by supermarkets demanding cheaper and cheaper meat, and unscrupulous suppliers providing what the supermarkets wanted but made money from buying a cheaper alternative”.

Rob Copley, chairman of the Farm Retail Association and co-owner of Farmer Copley’s in Pontefract, West Yorkshire, feared publicity about such practices could “take the industry down”. 

“The one thing a farm shop works on is trust and as soon as people step through my door they trust me because I’m a farmer, before they know anything else.”

It is imperative shop owners are honest, he said, and criticised supermarkets that labelled their products as coming from fake farms and getting away with it.

The Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) National Food Crime Unit urged anyone who might know about those involved in fraudulent labelling to contact the unit via the FSA website, the Food Crime Confidential hotline or to speak to their local trading standards office.

This story appeared in the June issue of Fine Food Digest. You can read more on the digital edition here.

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