British Potato Varieties Mislabeled

Published online: Oct 28, 2003
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>How important is it to put the correct potato variety label on potatoes sold at UK supermarkets?

Well, for growers and the consumer it is very important. Growers need to get the premium price they need for growing better, more preferable varieties, and consumers are unknowingly paying more for lower-value potatoes.

The Food Standards Agency in a survey found that more than a third of the potatoes checked were wrongly labeled. They used DNA to check the profiles of 98 different varieties held in a database.

The Agency found that of 294 samples taken, 96 or 33 percent were incorrectly labeled. This included 49 or 17 percent of the varieties that were not what retailers were claiming they were.

Potatoes sold on the retail level are required by law to be labeled with the name of the variety. The potato variety most likely to be mislabeled was King Edwards. On the 37 samples taken that were labeled as King Edwards, 16 were another variety-most of them a little-known Irish variety called Ambo.

"It is clear consumers are not always getting what they are paying for, and this is unacceptable," Agency head of food labeling Rosemary Hignettt said.

The mislabeling comes at a time when retailers are increasingly marketing the differences between varieties of potatoes, encouraging consumers to choose different types because of their particular characteristics such as taste and texture. With the difference in variety often comes a difference in price, as much as 40 percent for King Edwards in some cases.