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Saturday 21 April 2018

Tesco chief executive says horsemeat scandal ‘should be wake-up call’

By Lesley-Anne McKeown

RADICAL reform of the food supply industry is required to prevent a repeat of the horse meat crisis, Tesco's chief executive claimed today.

Philip Clarke said the scandal which has rocked the industry should be seen as a wake-up call.

But while he talked of the need for greater transparency in the food chain, he declined to be drawn on the latest contamination controversy to engulf his supermarket.

"We are going to have to work very hard to weed out any rogue elements which will risk the reputation of the food industry," he said.

"So we can restore trust in food, we are going to undertake a forensic examination of our supply chains - everywhere we source from. I am sure we are going to find things we don't like but where we find them we will work immediately to put it right," he said.

This week, Tesco was forced to withdraw a line of frozen meatloaf made by Co Down company Eurostock Foods.

Labelled as Tesco Simply Roast Meatloaf, the product was withdrawn after tests revealed it contained between 2% and 5% horse meat.

Mr Clarke declined to disclose the source of the contamination.

"We will leave that for the conversations we have with Government and that they have with Food Standards Agencies and that we have with the individual suppliers affected.

"We have already stopped taking supplies from one or two suppliers as a consequence because at the heart of any supply chain is trust. Trust between the retailer, the processor and the farmer. What we are seeing here is a link in the chain has been broken," he said.

Mr Clarke was speaking at the launch of a new Institute for Global Food Security at Queen's University in Belfast.

Tesco has been badly hit by the horse meat crisis. The supermarket said the meatloaf was the fourth of its own brand products found to be contaminated and withdrawn.

He said the retail giant planned to work more closely with farmers and would increase the amount of locally produced meat and poultry it sells.

"Customers, whatever price they pay and whichever products they can afford, have the right to expect the product in the pack to be what it says is on the pack. When they discovered they couldn't be sure that was the case their confidence in the industry was hit very hard," Mr Clarke added.

Meanwhile, the new university Institute, which includes a £2.5 million laboratory, will work with the food sector to improve the integrity of the food chain.

Queen's vice-chancellor Professor Sir Peter Gregson said: "Queen's formed the UK's first Institute of Agri-Food and Land Use in 2006 and since then we have quickly become internationally recognised for our excellence in addressing complex food safety and quality issues.

"The opening of this new Institute is yet another example of the impact Queen's research is having on the wider world."

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