A recent investigation by UK-based consumer group Which? has highlighted potential issues with country-of-origin labelling on food items in UK supermarkets. 

The investigation found that several supermarkets, including Sainsbury’s, Asda and Aldi, had products on shelves without clear origin labelling.  

Items such as loose cauliflowers, red cabbage, courgettes, and onions at Sainsbury’s; as well as peppers, melons, and mangoes at Asda; and spring onions at Aldi, were reportedly lacking visible origin information. 

In one instance, Aldi displayed tomatoes from Morocco, parsley from Italy, and sweet mini peppers from Spain beneath a banner promoting “Great British Quality” with a Union Jack, which could imply a British origin.  

Similarly, Asda was found to have cauliflowers with a Union Jack on the shelf label, despite the vegetables being sourced from Spain. 

The investigation also criticised the vagueness of product labels, citing examples such as Lidl’s sausage rolls labelled with “UK and non-UK pork” and Iceland’s gammon joints marked as “EU and non-EU origin”.  

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Aldi’s Crestwood bacon and cheese wraps, as well as their steak and gravy pie, carried “Made in Britain” claims alongside Union Jacks, despite the pork being from the EU. 

A survey conducted as part of the study revealed that only 51% of more than 2,000 UK consumers found the current origin information on groceries helpful.  

Furthermore, 64% said they would prefer to buy products labelled as “British”, and 72% considered it important to know the origin of fresh meat, with 51% wanting to know the same for processed and tinned meat.  

The importance of origin information for fresh fruit and vegetables was noted by 68% of respondents. 

Current regulations mandate that meat, fish, fresh fruit and vegetables, honey, and wine must include a country or place of origin in their labelling.  

In response to the findings, Sainsbury’s stated: “We have processes in place to make sure country of origin information is clearly displayed on the product or shelf and we carry out regular checks working closely with our regulator, the Animal and Plant Health Agency. All our chicken has the country of origin clearly marked including the Union Flag.”