A tagged Tesco chop

Tesco Ireland has denied its practice of attaching anti-theft security tags to food in one of its supermarkets will be rolled out countrywide. The supermarket's express branch in Dolphin's Barn, south Dublin uses tags similar to those used in clothing stores on much of its produce.

The move has been criticised, but Tesco says it is simply on trial as part of ongoing efforts to "innovate" new security techniques.

However, last July the practice hit the headlines in the UK when it was announced the retailer was to apply the metal strip tags to cheese following an increase in shoplifting.

In Dolphin's Barn, the tags were applied to numerous products including packets of chicken fillets and bacon.

But Tesco insists it is not a response to an increase in shoplifting.

"Essentially, this is just a trial," a spokesman told the Sunday Tribune.

"We trial various security [practices] right across the whole sector. We are always innovating new ways of doing things. That is all it is at this stage – there are no plans in relation to future activities."

However, the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises (ISME) association, which represents smaller retailers, warned any such policy could backfire.

"It actually has a detrimental effect on shopping because the experience of shopping goes on how the products are presented," said chief executive Mark Fielding.

"If you have a shop that tags everything and a shop that doesn't then people will go to the one that doesn't."

ISME says it is getting more complaints about shoplifting in recently but the majority of concerns relate to high-end products such as clothing and perfume.

Labour TD for Dublin South Central Mary Upton was also critical. "It could potentially be damaging to the store," she said. "I understand that in the high street, clothing will always be tagged but you don't expect it in your local grocery shop. I think it's very negative."

However, retail experts in the UK warned earlier this summer that Tesco's example may be followed by other retailers.

The Retail Food Consortium said: "We expect crime to go up during the recession. Shops will look at this and step up security."