Tesco has lashed out at claims it misled consumers over prices with its flagship fruit and veg pledge.
The multiple said reports in the weekend press that it had raised the prices of fruit lines days before cutting them to half price at the start of the year were untrue.
"We are doing more than any other supermarket to make it easy and affordable for our customers to get their 5-a-day," insisted a spokesman.
"It is wrong to say we are ramping up prices to cut them again."
He admitted there had been price fluctuations but claimed they were caused by the switchover from northern hemisphere fruit to supplies sourced in the southern hemisphere. The gap between the two growing seasons often meant fruit had to be airfreighted at higher cost, he said.
A Tesco fruit supplier sympathised with the retailer, adding December was always a time of volatile costs.
The fruit and veg pledge was launched at the start of the year and has been backed with extensive TV and press advertising. Tesco is offering five different fruit and vegetable lines at half price every week of the year.
But a report in a national newspaper claimed Tesco had doubled the price of some of the lines a week before they featured in the pledge. For instance, plums costing £1.48 for a 500g punnet on 11 December, doubled in price to £2.99 on 28 December before dropping to £1.48 again on 1 January.
Similar claims were made about pricing for Gala apples, and stone fruit.
Tesco has hit back by saying some of the prices quoted were inaccurate. It cited the example of 500g of peaches, which cost £2.99 on 3 December, then fell in price to £1.99 until 7 January, when the price was cut to £1.49. "This is a 'double crossout' which means we can show the price as being halved while the price has been dropped in stages," said the spokesman.