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Lidl gets ‘slap on the wrist’ for mislabeling fish products

Discount retailer in Ireland is in trouble with authorities for advertising 'fresh' fish which actually came from Namibia.

Discount retailer Lidl has received “a slap on the wrist” from the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland (ASAI) for mislabeling some products as fresh when they are in fact defrosted.

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The advert in question involved the retailer’s sales pitch for its Inismara brand of fish products.

The range includes hake, cod fillets, and breaded cod fillets with the tagline “same great taste, same great value… fresh new look!”

The complainant, Irish fishmonger Nicholas Lynch Limited, said the hake advertised was from Namibia and the cod from the Barents Sea.

The company said both products had been frozen and defrosted, yet the leaflet had advertised them both as being "fresh."

It was their understanding, however, that if a product had been defrosted that this factor should be referenced, and as a result Nicholas Lynch Limited considered the advertising to be misleading.

Lidl said that while the labeling attached to the products indicated they were defrosted, they included the word "fresh" in their advertising as it was their understanding that it was permissible to do so.

When it was brought to their attention that their fish products should not be advertised as "fresh" if they had been defrosted, the discounter noted it took the necessary steps to remove the word "fresh" from their defrosted fish products.

Lidl Ireland said it was confident they currently had no advertising that referred to defrosted fish products as "fresh."

The Advertising Standards Authority’s complaints committee considered the detail of the complaint and the advertisers’ response and noted that the advertising had been amended to remove the description "fresh."

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They considered, however, that since the products were frozen and defrosted, the description "fresh" was likely to mislead and to be in breach of sections of the country's labeling code.

Niall Murray, of Nicholas Lynch (also known as Nick's Fish), argued that the advertising watchdog didn't go far enough.

“Lidl's response was a blatant lie and this can be proved with correspondences between myself and FSAI​ [Irish State Body, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland] who confirmed to myself that they in fact approached Lidl on this exact matter in Jan 2015, almost two years previous,” Murray told IntraFish.

“Over two years of blatant false advertising and just another slap on the wrist for them, it's no wonder they have no fear of the FSAI as there's no consequences for these actions and the amount of financial gain to be made is huge by misleading consumers.”

IntraFish recently explored this very issue, questioning whether the German discounters are misleading consumers.

Murray strongly believes they are and have been for years, at least in Ireland. “Here's 100-percent proof of what's going on in Ireland,” he said.

“Pseudo-Irish product names, not using the word 'defrosted' in advertising or promotions and every product carrying Irish flags -- all tricks to mislead," he said.

Murray also questioned Lidl’s response to the ASAI.

“Lidl makes different claims depending on the day of the week,” he said.

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The discounter claimed all its labeling is compliant, and noted they have a legal team that ensures it abides by labeling rules.

“But, when the ASAI ask them about calling defrosted fish 'fresh' in all their advertising they claim ignorance to the fact they couldn't do that?" Murray asked.

"That'd be one of the most basic things you'd hope a legal team would pick up on. So which is it, Lidl?”

Although Lidl claims ignorance on this issue, Murray said he has from the Irish State Body, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) that Lidl were approached on the issue of calling defrosted fish 'fresh' in 2015.

“I think Lidl are now tripping over their own lies and their lies can be proven,” Murray said.

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