Soil Association backs NFU’s ‘false farm’ labels complaint

"Using fictional farm names to give shoppers a sense of provenance is deeply misleading," says food and farming charity

Close up of hand picking tomato from basket.

The Soil Association has lent its voice to the NFU’s campaign against supermarkets using ‘false farm’ labels to promote their goods, after the farmers’ union formally filed a complaint with the National Trading Standards Institute.

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The NFU has challenged the use of labels that could imply the produce originated in a British farm, when the farm does not exist and the food may be produced abroad. Contentious labels include Tesco’s Rosedene Farms, Boswell Farms, Woodside Farms and Nightingale Farms; Aldi’s Ashfield Farm; and Lidl’s Birchwood Farm and Strathvale Farm. Tesco’s Rosedene Farm label, for instance, sells apples from the UK, pears from Belgium, strawberries from Spain and blueberries from Chile. Pork products in the Woodside Farms brand have been shown to come from the Netherlands or Denmark.

The Soil Association says it “strongly supports the NFU’s complaint over ‘fake’ farm branding. We agree that using fictional farm names to give shoppers a sense of provenance is deeply misleading. People increasingly want to know where our food comes from, and want honesty and authenticity, not deceptive veneers. Branding that uses fictitious farms threatens to undermine trust in sales from genuine British farms at a time of great uncertainty and vulnerability for all UK farmers.”

In early June, the NFU commissioned a YouGov survey that found that three in five respondents thought that these farm products in their view were ‘definitely’ or ‘probably’ British and that they would feel misled if this was not the case and were told that the product could be from another country.

As a result, the NFU has formally complained to the National Trading Standards Institute, asking it to look at whether ‘fake’ farm branding complies with legal requirement.

NFU president Meurig Raymond said: “I have spoken to senior management at Tesco to highlight our members concerns about the use of these fake farm brands. 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.  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.”

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Tesco said in a statement: “We’ve named the brands after farms to represent the quality specifications that go into every product across the range”.