Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall takes on Tesco – again

The River Cottage chef castigates the supermarket for failing to honour "the spirit of their promise"


In his latest programme for Channel 4, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall criticises Tesco for stocking tuna caught using destructive fishing devices.


Three years ago, the supermarket announced plans to switch to 100% pole and line caught fish – which is considered the most environmentally friendly method – for its own-brand banned tuna. The announcement came after the supermarket was targeted by the chef’s TV campaign Fish Fight, which highlights the problems facing the global fishing industry.

While the Fearnley-Whittingstall stops short of suggesting that Tesco has reneged on its promise but reveals that the supermarket has since started stocking a new brand of tuna – Oriental and Pacific – caught using fish-aggregation devices or FADs.

FADs are rafts that attract large shoals of fish and increase the likelihood of catching other species – including threatened turtles, sharks and rays. A tin of Oriental and Pacific tuna costs 49p – considerably less than Tesco’s economy own-brand product.

“It’s just so tragic, isn’t it?” says the River Cottage chef. “They don’t want their brand to be associated with it but they still want to see cheap tuna caught by environmentally unsound methods. So they fulfill the letter of their obligation but the spirit of their promise – where is that now?”

“Tesco are not the only supermarket to stock tuna with labels that somehow avoid telling us how it was caught. But they are the supermarket who’ve been making the biggest noise about just how open and transparent they want to be.”

The chef is referring to a double-page advertisement Tesco that ran in a number of national papers in the wake of the horsemeat scandal last March. Entitled “What burgers have taught us”, the advertisement read: “It’s about the whole food industry. And it has made us realise, we really do need to make it better…We know that all this will only work if we are open about what we do. Seriously. This is it. We are changing.”

The Advertising Standards Agency subsequently ruled that it was misleading because it suggested all retailers and suppliers were likely to have sold products contaminated with horsemeat.

The chef – who lobbied Tesco about the way it labelled chicken in 2008 – also issues a call to arms: “If you’re a Tesco customer and you think this is as cynical as we do. Tell them.”

Earlier in the programme, he evaluates the positive developments since the Fish Fight campaign was launched in 2011, including the EU’s recent ban on discards.

Fish Fight: Hugh’s Last Stand is on tonight at 7:00pm on Channel 4