The trade journal The Grocer has today (10th March) revealed the news that Booths has confirmed it is the retailer linked to a food fraud investigation by the FSA’s National Food Crime Unit (NFCU) over the passing off of imported beef as British.
The local supermarket chain, with 27 outlets throughout the North, confirmed this afternoon (Friday 10th March) it had been ‘working closely and co-operatively with the NFCU since being made aware of potential food fraud issues in 2021’. However, Booths ‘categorically’ stressed it was not itself under investigation by the NFCU.
The investigation – dubbed Operation Hawk by the NFCU – hit the headlines this week when farming title Farmers Weekly reported the unit was investigating directors of a company ‘responsible for selling large volumes of pre-packed meat products to a UK supermarket retailer, who pride themselves on only selling British products.
The directors are accused of selling cooked sliced beef sourced from South America and Europe as British beef to the retailer now known to be Booths.
Andrew Quinn, deputy head of NFCU, said the retailer ‘was notified on the same day that we took action against the food business suspected of the fraud and immediately removed all affected products from their shelves’.
In a statement to The Grocer, Booths confirmed its support for the investigation related to ‘a limited selection of cooked meat products’, but stressed it had ‘no knowledge of any other aspects of the investigation’.
Booths added: ‘At the point of being made aware of the potential issues in 2021, Booths acted instantly, removing all relevant products from sale and ceased trading with the supplier with immediate effect.’
‘Booths would like to confirm that fresh meat, poultry and game products are entirely unaffected by this investigation and that with the exception of the limited selection of cooked meat products impacted in 2021, Booths is absolutely confident in its British-only meat commitment.’
‘Issues of provenance, traceability, honesty and authenticity are of the highest importance to Booths and the business has been fully co-operating with and supporting the work of the NFCU for the past 18 months,’ the statement added.
‘It is important that the NFCU is able to complete its investigations in an objective and impartial manner. The NFCU continue to have the full support of Booths and to that effect, Booths will make no further comment at this stage. Any further enquiries relating to this matter should be directed to the NFCU.’
The ongoing investigation – a decade after the horse meat scandal rocked the food industry – has raised fresh doubts over the robustness of meat supply chains, with some industry insiders this week suggesting there could be further examples of undetected fraud across meat and other supply chains.