Retail giant Sainsbury’s has apologised for a mislabelling issue which saw New Zealand lamb branded as British ahead of the Easter weekend.
Images of the packaging, circulated on social media by AHDB market intelligence director and farmer Phil Bicknell, showed the meat was labelled as British and from a UK meat plant, despite its sleeve packaging indicating it was of New Zealand origin.
Twitter users erupted, with many accusing the retailer of deliberately misleading customers and others vowing to boycott the supermarket.
Others said it raised the wider issue of country of origin labelling and highlighted other retailers such as Waitrose had been caught out for similar breaches in the past.
Sainsbury’s responded by apologising for ’confusion’ and directed customers to its website to find product information - a move which sparked even more anger among farmers.
Famer and NFU Cymru county adviser for South East Wales Stella Owen said: "We do our utmost on farm to ensure traceability. Animals are tagged, identified, recorded and then let down at the end. I am quite honestly disgusted.”
Nikita Jane Garner, who runs a small farm in Co. Durham, tweeted: “Sainsbury’s you must do far better than this.
“Do you realise there are people, families and farms behind these products and that this misinformation has a real life impact for producers?”
The Food Standards Agency said concerned consumers should raise the issue with Defra as it is responsible for country of origin labelling,
Speaking to Farmers Guardian, a Sainsbury’s spokesperson said: “A tiny proportion of our New Zealand lamb joints were labelled incorrectly.
“We sent teams to our stores to put this right as soon as this was identified and we are apologising to customers for any confusion or inconvenience this may have caused.”
It is understood the mislabelled product accounted for less than 0.05 per cent of Sainsbury’s lamb joints.
The retailer added it remained committed to sourcing British as much as it possibly can, with their Easter lamb range ‘no exception’.
“We have worked hard with our farmers to source almost a thousand more tonnes of best in season British lamb this year,” the spokesperson added.