Editorial: Fake Food - The misleading mislabelling of Irish food
The other day I happened to put a tweet out to our followers on something that some of our readers had been pointing out to me for some time. The scandal that is fake food labelling. What do I mean by fake food labelling?
The branding of food products with Made in Ireland, Produce of Ireland and Packed in Ireland on them but with some investigation it turns out the food is no more Irish than Gandhi was an Australia.
The international aspect is an important one here as its food that’s coming into the country from all over the globe being packed in Ireland and then getting that all important Made in Ireland stamp or logo.
Increasingly the food is not Irish wrapped under an Irish sounding name for example like Skellig Bay fish found in Aldi supermarkets it sounds Irish yes, it has the Irish Flag on the front which we take to mean made in Ireland but when you read the packaging closer you see that the product is only packed in Ireland and the fish? Well the fish come from a fish farm in Turkey and Greece.
Indeed well known chef JP McMahon commenting on the labelling issue told me of fish being caught in Nambia but packed in Ireland being sold under an Irish banner.
But lets move aside from fish. Perhaps you say that might just be that industry? Lets take a look at Pork. Who doesn’t love a sausage or rasher or a bit of boiled ham. We’ve got a really strong and healthy pig industry who are well able to meet our pork needs in this country right?
Well you’re wrong because there are imports parading under the Irish food label again. Another reader pointed out to us about Glensallagh a pork brand who carry the Produced in Ireland logo but on closer inspection the bacon contains ‘traces of EU pork’ that product was found in Lidl.
Ah but maybe its only Pork and fish right? Its not the big stuff its not beef, surely its not beef? Remember the horse meat scandal?
In fact it goes all the way through the food chain product list. There was even reports of fake honey, yes fake honey in Irish and British shops coming from China on closer examination it was glucose filled syrup. Indeed you may have even bought some it never set and always stayed runny? Yeah that was probably fake honey.
Fake food and mislabelling of food is a major threat. Why? People might be shouting at me now what does it matter? Well of course it does matter because products fully made in Ireland support Irish jobs and livelihoods with millions of euros at stake.
Lets take a step back what does this Made in Ireland or Produce of Ireland logo mean. As consumers we face a barrage of logos and info when we hit the supermarket.
But what really means its truly Irish? Well Bord Bia in fairness have done a good job on introducing the Bord Bia Quality assurance mark. The Quality mark lets consumers know the product is irish and it’s been produced in Ireland under the highest Board Bia standards, so far 52,000 producers and 120 processors and packers are certified members and are inspected regularly. You might know the seal it looks like this:
But here is where it gets tricky. Other companies who don’t qualify or meet requirements of the Bord Bia mark are using similar logos. Also in green writing, with a tri colour. It’s a copy cat model designed to imitate or pass off and when we are in a rush in a shopping market you look for the tri colour and you say grand that’s Irish but alas as shown above that’s not always the case.
You might ask that maybe the quality assurance mark doesn’t cover some foods but it covers pre packed beef, lamb, pork, bacon, cooked ham, rashers, turkey, duck, sausages and burgers. You will also find it on eggs, fruit, vegetables and potatoes.
So why do retailers and companies not use the Quality mark? The reason is they can’t the food is from Namabian fish, or Chinese honey or Danish pork. It might have been packed, salted, or seasoned in Ireland and thereby qualifies to have had part of its food journey happen in Ireland and is deemed Irish. It’s a murky world and its called Food Fraud.
I’m not just making up that name the EU have a special body set up for it. You can check it out here.
It’s a big business and Ireland is not alone in mislabelling issues.
This wont be the last time we talk about food fraud and mislabelling. It’s a much bigger story. You can take this as a statement of intent from That’s Farming that we’ll be tackling this important issue. In the mean time if you spot fake food take a picture and send it to us on social media. The list is growing all the time!