Animal campaign group Viva! complained to trading standards about pictures of reeds and bulrushes on duck meat packs on Tesco shelves. What was the grouse and what are the lessons for packaging designers?
Topic: Labelling and packaging
Who: Tesco and The Trading Standards Agency
Where: The UK
When: March 2006
Animal campaign group Viva! complained to the UK's Trading Standards Agency, responsible for food labelling compliance, in respect of Tesco's packaging of duck meat. The packaging carried pictures of reeds and bulrushes and thereby, Viva! claimed, gave the impression that the ducks in question had been reared free range in the open air and on ponds and lakes, whereas, in reality, Viva! claimed, the ducks were housed in industrial sheds, 10,000 at a time and had no access to outdoors and no water for swimming.
Section 15 of the Food Safety Act 1990 states:
"any person who gives with any food sold by him, or displays with any food offered etc… whether or not attached to or printed on the wrapper or container, [a statement] which is likely to mislead as to the nature or substance or quality of the food shall be guilty of an offence."
In support of its case, Viva! supplied Trading Standards with video footage of the supplier's plant and in a subsequent meeting with Trading Standards, Tesco agreed to redesign the packaging to remove the reeds and bulrushes.
Why this matters:
A Tesco spokesperson was quoted as saying:
"We did not intend for the background of our fresh duck label to be misleading and as a result of this complaint we will be redesigning the label. The ducks used to supply this product are reared inside houses to Tesco's animal welfare standards, which meet all the Freedom Foods (RSPCA) requirements."
Be that as it may, this case underlines the care that must be taken with packaging and labelling, particularly of food, to avoid the slightest imagery giving an arguably misleading impression and thus risking the commission of an offence under food safety legislation.