Trading standards haven't ruled out prosecutions in the cases of two retailers being investigated for mis-selling potatoes.
Echoing the FSA survey on farmed fish incorrectly labelled as wild (see page 48), officers said chemical testing of 32 samples showed that produce being sold as 'British' in two Welsh retailers was imported. Refusing to name the retailers, they said one, part of a national chain, was selling Israeli potatoes, while the other was a local outlet selling Cypriot spuds.
According to Steven Hay, principal Trading Stand- ards officer in Cardiff: "Eight samples were found in breach of the law, but not all were labelling breaches. Some were quality issues and there were two examples of mislabelling. We haven't drawn any firm conclusion yet. We haven't ruled out prosecutions, but all options are open, from no action to cautions and possible prosecutions."
The news prompted claims that consumers were being ripped off in the latest food scam. But the British Potato Council said it was just a case of accidental mislabelling.
"Trading standards asked us to go with them when looking at the labelling of potatoes in wholesale and retail outlets in south Wales, and found a couple of bins that had been mislabelled due to human error," said BPC marketing manager Kathryn Race. "It seems to have been made into a much larger problem than it is. We are only aware of two stores and we are happy that this wasn't done on purpose.
"At this time of year, the new British crop is starting to come out but in small quantities. These retailers were trying to decide when to switch from imported to British, and thought it was going to happen a couple of weeks ago. But then they realised it wasn't, and in the space of a couple of days, things got mixed up at the back of store."