Welsh take steps to protect PGI red meat

Wales will battle falsely labelled Welsh Lamb and Welsh Beef in a bid to defend its coveted Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status.

Restaurants, hotels, cafés and other catering outlets will be subjected to scrutiny this autumn, as trading standards officers ensure they are not misleading customers with false claims about the country of origin of their lamb and beef.

Welsh red meat promotion agency Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC) has welcomed the move and said it will work with trading standards officers.

HCC chief executive Gwyn Howells explained the plans were to “uphold the integrity of the Welsh brands and protect them from imitation by inferior products”. He also highlighted the illegality of describing beef or lamb as Welsh if it was not born and reared in Wales and processed in HCC-approved abattoirs or cutting plants.

He said: “The horsemeat scandal has shown how consumer confidence can be hit by criminal acts of mislabelling food products. But mislabelling doesn’t only mean swapping beef for horsemeat. It can also mean attempting to pass off an inferior, cheaper product for a higher-quality one – while still charging the customer a premium price.”

Meanwhile he warned that, if the establishments visited by trading standards officers could not produce paperwork to prove the authenticity of their meat, the “appropriate action may be taken against their businesses”.

Officers have also been told to look for other misleading claims, such as “Lamb from Wales” and “Local Beef”.

Andy Mackay, secretary of the Welsh Heads of Trading Standards Food and Agriculture Standards Group, said: “We are undertaking these checks to make sure the public actually get what they are paying for and depending on what we find, will hopefully reassure the consumer and assist in protecting these premium Welsh products.”

Howells concluded: “Whenever a high-quality product is produced there are always some unscrupulous people who want to make a fast buck by substituting it for something that is not only cheaper, but also inferior. This not only hits the pocket of the customer, but also harms the reputation of PGI Welsh Lamb and PGI Welsh Beef.”