Fictional farms created by big retailers are not fraudulent, despite the fact ‘misrepresenting the origin of a product’ qualifies as fraud.
That is what Andy Morling, head of the National Food Crime Unit, told Farmers Guardian at a Westminster Food and Nutrition Forum event last week.
The NFU has blasted retailers, including Tesco, for using fake farm brands such as ‘Willow Farms’ and ‘Boswell Farms’ to sell products which have sometimes been imported from abroad.
A YouGov survey commissioned by the union found three in five people who believed the products were ‘definitely’ or ‘probably’ British said they would feel misled if they found out the food was from another country.
Mr Morling said: “As far as I am concerned, the farm brands do not meet the criteria of fraud because the rest of the packaging explains where the food comes from.”
But James Gray, the new chairman of the Tenant Farmers Association, said while the practice may not be fraud, it was certainly ‘deliberate deception’.
“It makes our members really annoyed and it does not help the farming industry”, he added.
“This kind of shabby behaviour has to stop. The reason retailers use these brands is to trade on the high-quality provenance perception of British food. It is deceptive.”
An NFU spokesman said in response to the union’s complaint about fake farm brands, Defra had ‘asked the lead authorities to draw the relevant legal provisions to the attention of food business operators’.