A new voluntary food labelling scheme introduced by Britain's Food Standards Agency earlier this month [WAMN: 13-Mar-06] has sparked a spat between the nation's third largest supermarket chain and the British Retail Consortium.

J Sainsbury, a BRC member, supports the government-sponsored scheme. Fellow-member Tesco, which dominates the UK supermarket sector with a national share of 30%-plus, prefers to paddle its own labelling canoe.

It seems that BRC director-general Kevin Hawkins, in an interview with the BBC, gave the impression that he favoured Tesco's stance on the matter of labelling - an impression that did not go down well at Sainsbury, which promptly suspended its membership of the BRC until the end of April.

Huffed the supermarketeer: "[The suspension] follows concern about how the BRC is able to represent members effectively on issues where they hold significantly differing views. We have had concerns for a while but the issue was highlighted most recently following the FSA announcement on signposting. We are actively working with the BRC to resolve the issue."

The phrase "or else" did not appear in the statement

Meantime, BRC boss Hawkins was in 'silly me', mode, telling the Financial Times: "I guess the lesson is not to quote on what individual companies are doing or not doing on nutritional labelling."

As any sixth grade business studies student could have told the director-general of the British Retail Consortium.

Data sourced from Financial Times Online; additional content by WARC staff