From Private Eye 2-15 May
 
Down on the Farm
 
It is not often this column says nice things about supermarkets, but hats off to Asda for its £1.1m campaign to stick a union jack on all homegrown products in its stores, together with a label certifying that they are "British".
 
This may not seem a particularly brace or revolutionary marketing ploy.  but it must be remembered that to label British food as British is a breach of the criminal law.  This is because of those Alice in kafka-land rules from the EU which make it illegal to label food with its country of origin because Brussels regards this as discriminatory chauvinism.
 
Under the logic of EU law, it is perfectly legal to stick a union jack on a frozen chicken and describe it is "produced in Britain", but only so long as this is not taken to mean that the chicken itself was grown in the UK.  All that matters is where the food was processed and packaged.  If you import your frozen chicken from Thailand, so long as it is processed and packed in Briticism it is legal to call it "British".  The same applies to Danish and Dutch bacon plastered in red, white and blue to fool patriotic shoppers into thinking it came from Essex pigs.
 
Naturally this kind of chicanery infuriates British farmers, just as much as it infuriates those from France, Germany and everywhere else in the EU.  The rules are so crazy that countless efforts have been made to get round them, and to pass on to shoppers the information many of them would like to know..  One of the most pitiful was the NFU's "Little Red Tractor" scheme, intended to kid shoppers into thinking that any food bearing this label came from a British farm.  in fact, as even the NFU was at last forced to admit, it mean nothing of the kind.  All the silly little tractor actually meant was that the product in question had been produced to "British farms standards", which meant nothing at all .  Consumers had no guarantee that the product had not originated in France, Ireland or anywhere else.
 
The French themselves resorted to labelling food "Not made in France", which was one way round the problem.  A Tory MP, Stephen O'Brien, even had the cheek to introduce a bill in parliament which would have made it legal to stick a "British" label on British food, and illegal to put such labels on food from anywhere else. He was supported by MPs of all parties.  But in the end he was slapped down by the minster, Joyce Quin, who pointed out that his bill was an offence against EU law and that it would be
"an abuse of parliamentary procedure" to allow it to continue.
 
So this is the law Asda is now proposing to flout head-on.  From now on, if a packet of bacon in Asda says "British", it means precisely that.  Asda is well aware it is breaking the law, but it is gambling that its campaign will be so popular that the busybodies from trading standards will not dare take them to court for fear of being laughed out of it.  But the fact we can commend Asda for showing the law to be an ass, doesn't mean we have to shop there.  It is still possible to go down to the local farm shop, safe in the knowledge that its produce is home-grown, because that is the point of farm shops.  And so far Brussels hasn't found a way to ban them. 
 
 'Muckspreader'