Suffolk/UK: Meat producers blast Food Standards Agency restaurant hygiene advert

The Food Standards Agency ad

The Food Standards Agency ad - Credit: Contributed

THE meat industry has blasted a Food Standards Agency (FSA) advertising campaign which features an image of tasty-looking lamb chops served in a urinal.

Suffolk-based local food campaigner Caroline Cranbrook condemned it as “dreadful”, and Chris Soule, chairman of the Suffolk branch of the Federation of Small Businesses, said it was “ill-judged”.

The National Sheep Association has called for a campaign re-think, and levy-payers’ organisation EBLEX warned it could damage public perception of lamb meat.

The FSA said critics had “missed the point” of the ad, which was to remind consumers to check hygiene standards when eating out, and that the appearance of an establishment could be deceptive.

Lady Cranbrook, who rears sheep, said: “This is a dreadful image – both the photograph and the impression it gives. People will remember the picture since it is so awful. The Food Standards Agency says that the advertisement is about food establishments and not about the food itself. But it is the picture that people will remember because it is so startlingly shocking.

Inevitably there will be damage by association. It is not helpful of the FSA to produce an advertisement like this. Their money would be better spent on investigating the illegal practices that have been exposed in the international processed meat trade. Our own livestock farmers and the butchers who sell their home-grown meat are right to be indignant about such an ill-judged advertising campaign, however worthy its motives.”

Mr Soule said: “Our high street butchers offer the highest quality meats and operate to high standards.

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Occasionally we find that lower food standard ratings are given to businesses and this is often related to the paperwork that backs up these ratings not hygiene failings.”

EBLEX sector director Nick Allen said it had provoked strong feelings in the sheep industry, which feels the advert unfairly associates lamb with food safety issues.

“While we support the Food Standards Agency’s aims of promoting good hygiene standards in restaurants, using lamb as the ‘poster boy’ for this campaign is ill-judged,” he said. “The reality is that lamb, and red meat in general, is rarely linked with food poisoning.”

Data from public health organisations showed that out of 70 foodborne outbreaks reported in the UK in 2010, just 14% were identified as being associated with red meat and only a fraction of these with lamb, he said.

An FSA spokesperson stressed they were not saying there is a problem with lamb. “We trust the intelligence of the public on this one. We don’t think anyone will be put off eating lamb by this advert,” he said.