18 Feb 2013

Food trade ‘to restore confidence’ in meat

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson says food retailers are “determined” to restore confidence in their meals and expects them to publish most of their test results on beef products by Friday.

Mr Paterson spoke after meeting representatives from Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons at Westminster, along with the Institute of Grocery Distribution and the Food and Drink Federation, on Monday.

He said he hoped consumers took some reassurance that 99 per cent of the products already tested were clear of horse DNA.

“The industry today committed to work absolutely as hard as they can to get out the remainder of the results by this Friday and they will be announced by the FSA (Food Standards Agency),” Mr Paterson told Sky News.

Horsemeat summit: Paterson urges supermarket action

“Some may be completed the following week considering the pressure there is on laboratory capacity.”

The environment secretary said he would meet industry figures regularly to ensure consumers were getting sound products.

‘Determination’ to restore confidence in products

“There was absolute determination in the industry to restore confidence in their products and I am pleased to say we look forward to meeting on a regular basis to absolutely make it clear that when consumers buy a product, they get what they bought,” he said.

The head of the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said laboratories were working “flat out” to get the test results completed.

Helen Dickinson, the BRC’s director general, said: “The labs are working flat out and our members are confident that the vast majority of testing will be completed by Friday.

“We were very pleased that the secretary of state recognised the hard work of retailers in progressing their testing programmes so quickly.

“Retailers take their responsibilities very seriously and are doing everything they can to maintain consumer confidence and increase surveillance.

“Members are meeting every day with the Food Standards Agency and working around the clock to understand what has happened and act on lessons learned.

‘Need for change’

“It’s clear that there will be things that need to change for the future as a result of these incidents.

“Retailers are scrutinising their systems and processes, alongside intelligence gathering and sharing to identify practical improvements that will turn the lessons learned into action.”

A Sainsbury’s spokeswoman said: “The meeting was productive and shows how the industry is pulling together to tackle the issues with government and the FSA.
“Whilst Sainsbury’s has not been affected, with no horse meat found in any of our products, we are fully committed to playing our part.

“We have used DNA testing for over a decade, and have a very comprehensive approach to quality control and product testing across all of our ranges from basics to Taste the Difference.”