The Rural Shops Alliance (RSA) has blasted the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) and Tesco over lack of focus on food provenance.

Tesco had been the subject of an investigation by the ASA over complaints made by Sainsbury’s over its Price Promise campaign which had made comparisons between own-label products.

Sainsbury’s had complained to the ASA on the basis that its Basics Ham was sourced in Britain while Tesco’s was sourced from elsewhere in the EU and that it wasn’t offering an accurate comparison. The ASA rejected the complaint due to the fact that the two products met the same need.

Ken Parsons, chief executive of the RSA, said: “This ruling shows how out of touch with the British public both the ASA and Tesco have become. It is as if we have learnt nothing from the recent horsemeat scandal. Provenance does matter. Millions of customers do care about where their food comes from. This is highlighted by the number of people going to convenience stores and farm shops each week specifically to buy food produced locally to where they live.”

Parsons added that customers are no longer just influenced by price and care about where products come from. “More importantly, this judgement shows that the ASA needs to overhaul its rulebook urgently to reflect the priorities of consumers in 2013,” he said. “The days when most people bought on price alone have gone, if they ever existed. Trust in the provenance of the food they eat is obviously important to many people and to pretend otherwise, as the ASA insists on doing, is quite bizarre.”

Earlier this year, Budgens responded to heightened consumer demand for provenance by ensuring that all of its fresh SuperValu meats and poultry were 100% British- and Red Tractor-approved, while a recent Mintel survey revealed that a third of British shoppers are now willing to pay more for British food - up from a quarter before the horsemeat scandal broke.