Fashion firm mislabelling Asian-made goods as 'Made in UK'

Thu 11 Jan 2024
Posted by: Benjamin Roche
Trade News

fashion

Online fashion retailer Boohoo has been found by a BBC Panorama investigation to have added ‘Made in the UK’ labels to clothing imported from South Asia, leading to warnings against “misleading practices” from watchdogs.

‘Misleading’

At the firm’s only UK manufacturing site in Leicester, items including hoodies and t-shirts had labels changed, with clothes manufactured in countries including Pakistan modified.

The BBC reports that the mislabelling is likely to have affected one in 250 items of the company’s total global clothing output, amounting to hundreds of thousands of mislabelled garments.

Calling the changes “a result of human error”, Boohoo said that they had misinterpreted the rules around labelling and added that they have “taken steps to ensure this does not happen again”.

Speaking to the BBC, the Chartered Trading Standards Institute’s lead officer for fair trading, Sylvia Rook, said it was a “misleading” practice that “could potentially mislead consumers”.

Boohoo is now said to be considering the closure of the Leicester factory, where a review previously sparked controversy by finding that workers were not properly paid.

‘Apply extra due diligence’

It isn’t the first incident where a UK firm has been found to have mislabelled goods made abroad.

In April last year, a report by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) found that major UK supermarkets were selling foreign pork labelled as produced in the UK, according to the Guardian.

The processing firm at the heart of the incident has not been named for legal reasons. The FSA investigation that produced the report found evidence that thousands of tonnes of foreign meat labelled British was in UK supply chains.

The FSA’s national food crime unit head, Darren Davies, said:

“The FSA advised retailers last year to check their cooked meat supply chain and to apply extra due diligence in their checks. We don’t give out these alerts without a reason.

“At a time when cost pressures and other challenges mean the risks of food fraud might be increasing, it is vital that everyone involved in the food system remains extra vigilant to ensure that food is safe and what it says it is.”

Another UK firm hit by a mislabelling controversy was supermarket Booths, which was linked to an alleged case of mislabelling of beef from South America as British last year.

Costco cutting

Other countries have experienced similar issues with mislabelling of imports.

Last year, Australia had its own, when Costco was found by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to have labelled Canadian-imported lobsters as “Australian lobster”, according to Inside FMCG.

Deputy chair of the ACCC, Mick Keogh, echoed Darren Davies’ words in saying that “many shoppers pay a premium to purchase Australian seafood rather than imported products, which makes the accuracy of the labelling a crucial part of enabling consumers to make an informed choice”.