Report criticises misleading labelling

A new report from Which? has claimed that manufacturers and supermarkets are using using “ficton” to sell meat and fish products.

The report said that the increasingly descriptive language used to sell food is misleading consumers. It gave examples of supermarkets inventing place names to brand their products, such as Marks & Spencer’s ‘Lochmuir’ salmon. Lochmuir does not exist, and M&S sources its salmon from across Scotland.

Tesco and M&S sell Willow Farm and Oakham chicken respectively, but actually source their birds from farms across the UK, the report added. It claimed that the industry was exploiting increasing consumer interest in place of origin and provenance. During a 2011 Which? survey, 72% of people said they thought provenance labelling on meat was important.

The report also pointed out that words such as ‘hearty’ are being used to suggest comfort, but there is no guidance as to how these words should be used, or minimum standards the products should meet. For example, Homepride’s ‘rich and hearty’ Beef in Ale sauce contains only 4% ale, no beef stock and 38% tomatoes.

Additionally, the report hits out at the use of so-called ‘weasel words’, such as crisp, succulent and rich, which are used to provide a sensory experience and encourage a purchase.

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said: “Some of the labels commonly found on shop shelves, while not illegal, hide the real contents of a product or are confusing to customers. The food industry must do more to make sure people get what they think they’re paying for.”