A council has launched a landmark legal case against supermarket giant Sainsbury’s – for using too much packaging on a joint of beef.
Lincolnshire County Council trading standards have taken the action against Sainsbury’s for over-wrapping one of its products.
It is believed to be the first time a major supermarket has been prosecuted for failing to keep within acceptable levels of packaging.
Trading standards allege that Sainsbury’s ‘Taste the Difference’ Slow Matured Ultimate Beef Roasting Joint, retailing for £11.99/kg, is overpackaged.
The charge states the packaging was ”not limited to the minimum adequate amount to maintain the necessary level of safety, hygiene and acceptance”.
Peter Heafield, head of trading standards at Lincolnshire County Council, said it is pursuing the case because overpackaging is harmful to the environment.
He said: ”Excessive packaging on goods can cause unnecessary damage to the environment and increase costs associated with recycling and landfill.
”Lincolnshire County Council has a duty to enforce regulations, which require businesses to review and reduce their packaging so items are packaged only in a way that is necessary for issues such as protection of the product and consumer acceptance.
”The council’s trading standards service has worked to help and support many businesses in reducing their packaging where possible.
”Following a consumer complaint about a product available in Sainsbury’s, trading standards carried out an investigation that has resulted in the matter being brought before the court.”
The charge was levelled against Sainsbury’s following a complaint about a joint of beef in a branch in Tritton road, Lincoln, on February 17 this year.
The £11.99/kg luxury joint is vacuum packed in plastic then further packaged inside a 20cm by 15cm APET plastic tray.
Covered with a plastic lid, it stands 10cm tall and is wrapped around with a printed cardboard sleeve.
Retailers are legally obliged to adhere to the Packaging Regulations act of 2003 which lays down guidelines to maintain hygiene standards and limit environmental damage.
According to the act, every product should be designed ”to minimise its impact on the environment when packaging waste or residues from packaging waste management operations are disposed of”.
The editor of supermarket industry magazine Packaging News, Simeon Goldstein, believes this is the first packaging prosecution against a major supermarket chain.
He said: ”There’s not been a lot of prosecutions and, of course, the industry will say most packaging complies with legislation.
”It’s often the small firms that are perhaps less aware of the legislation that are prosecuted.”
Sainsbury’s online groceries store sells a 1.1kg joint for £13.70 and the description claims that the packaging keeps the meat fresh.
It reads: ”We’re really pleased with this beef. Its been dry aged for a minimum of 21 days, which gives it great flavour and tenderness, then specially packed for freshness.”
A spokesman for Sainsbury’s said the firm was unable to comment ahead of the hearing at Lincoln Magistrate’s Court on October 12.