Lidl has been hastily removing out-of-date references on its website to so-called fake farm products, after assuring MPs the labelling no longer plays any part in its business.

Controversy over the issue resurfaced yesterday when supermarkets including Lidl were quizzed by MPs on the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Efra) Committee.

Lidl chief commercial officer Richard Bourns repeatedly told MPs it “categorically” did not use the term ‘farms’, after the committee referred to its use of the names Strathvale Farm and Birchwood Farm.

MPs then pointed out several instances of Strathvale Farm products, including chicken, beef mince and meatballs, still featuring on Lidl’s website. At the time, a page on the site showed a picture of a farm and referred to Strathvale Farm chicken “reared with care by Scottish farmers”.

Bourns told the committee no products purporting to be from such farms were still sold in Lidl and it also did not sell chicken from Scotland.

“If there is a reference to Strathvale Farms on our website I’d want to take that away and correct it,” he said.

“It could be the case that our website is not up to date.

“We do not have an online offering but I can categorically tell you we do not have farms brands in our business, just to be absolutely clear.

“So we have Strathvale for Scottish meat in Scotland, we have Birchwood for British meat in the UK, but we do not have Strathvale Farms and we do not have Birchwood Farms.”

By this morning, Google searches for the phase ‘Strathvale Farm’ no longer led to the same information, after Lidl updated its website to remove the out-date references. 

It is thought they were historical pages which would not have been found by navigating the site as a consumer would, instead requiring a specific phrase search via Google to locate. 

Lidl stressed it stopped selling ‘farm brands’ in stores in 2019 in response to customer feedback.

It is believed it is still checking the site to ensure any out-of-date references to such branding are removed.

A spokeswoman for the retailer said: “Statements made by Lidl at the committee were all correct. Lidl does not have any own-label products with ‘farm’ featured in the name, having fully removed it following customer feedback five years ago.

“Customers navigating Lidl’s website via its product pages or its shelves in store will see all up-to-date packaging and branding.

“Any historic web pages featuring old packaging that appear via a search engine are in the process of being removed to ensure complete accuracy.”

MPs yesterday also quizzed Dom Morrey, commercial director for fresh food at Tesco, about the use of its invented farms, including Rosedene Farms, Suntrail Farms, Redmere Farms, Nightingale Farms, Willow Farms, Woodside Farms, Boswell Farms and Bay Fishmongers.

Unlike Lidl, Tesco has continued to use the brands despite the controversy, as part of its phase-out of the Tesco Value brand.

Morrey told the hearing: “When we previously sold those as value items, our customers fed it back to us that they didn’t necessarily like the way that that was done.

“And so we tried to bring it to life in terms of being more redolent of the supply base where it comes from.”