British authorities are investigating how meat labelled as British, but originating in South America and Europe, was supplied to a British retailer.

The UK Food Safety Authority’s (FSA) National Food Crime Unit (NFCU) is leading the investigation, which it has described as food fraud, not a food safety issue.

It’s understood the food fraud primarily concerns imported meat falsely labelled as British.

The FSA confirmed to the Irish Farmers Journal on Thursday night that the investigation concerns pre-packed sliced meat and deli products and not minced beef, burgers or steak.

The supermarket has cleared its shelves of the offending meat product.

Food fraud

In a statement to the Irish Farmers Journal, NFCU deputy head Andrew Quinn said the unit is investigating how one UK retailer was supplied with pre-packed sliced meat and deli products labelled as British when they were in fact sourced from South America and Europe.

“The retailer was notified on the same day that the unit took action against the food business suspected of the fraud and immediately removed all affected products from its supermarket shelves.

“The retailer continues to work closely and co-operatively with the NFCU investigation to progress the case against the supplier. This is not a food safety issue, but a matter of food fraud,” Quinn said.

The UK National Food Crime Unit investigation is ongoing. \ Philip Doyle

The NFCU deputy chief highlighted that any food fraud investigations of this nature take time to go through evidence and bring to any outcome, including any potential prosecution.

“We take food fraud very seriously and are acting urgently to protect the consumer,” he said.

Operation hawk

Last December, the NFCU reported on its Operation Hawk, an investigation into the directors of a company responsible for selling large volumes of pre-packed meat products to a UK supermarket retailer, which prided itself on selling only British products.

“Our investigation has revealed that the offending company have been selling large volumes of meat products sourced from South America and Europe,” the unit reported.

“The investigation has had to prioritise the review of circa 1.3m documents.”

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