Tesco's failure to prevent horse meat scandal 'was extraordinary'

07 February 2013

Posted by Satvir Bhullar

A Labour MP has claimed that Tesco's failure to notice that its beef burgers contained horse meat was "extraordinary".

Barry Gardiner said the company paid more attention to misshaped fruit than to the content of its burgers, foodmanufacture.co.uk reports.

Mr Gardiner stated: "As a company you are notorious for sending misshapen apples or pears back to farmers, yet you didn't pick up on the fact that your burgers had 29 per cent horse meat. Surely this is a thing of extraordinary proportions?"

The MP was speaking to Tesco's Technical Director, Tim Smith, at the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committee meeting in Westminster.

Mr Smith responded by saying the firm completes 22,000 surveillance tests and 1,200 audits each year at a cost of somewhere between £3.5 million and £4 million.

However, he admitted that the supermarket chain will only now begin to use the DNA testing technology that could have prevented the scandal.

Mr Smith claimed introducing this form of testing was a "daunting prospect" due to the high cost of the technology involved.

Tesco has dropped its supplier Silvercrest, which is part of the ABP Food Group, as a result of the scandal, claiming there had been a "breach of trust".

Despite this, the company has still accepted full responsibility and issued an "unreserved apology".

Mr Smith said: "Ultimately Tesco is responsible for the food we sell, so it is not enough just to stop using the supplier."

He added that the new DNA testing system will represent a significant investment for the firm, the cost of which will be borne by Tesco and not its customers.

Huw Irranca-Davies, the Shadow Environment Minister, has welcomed the use of new technology, saying that food testing needs to become much more rigorous.

Traces of horse meat were found in three different types of beef burger sold by Tesco and the company was forced to withdraw around ten million items from stores throughout the country as a result.

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