Asda chief executive Andy Clarke said the meeting between Government and retailers today to tackle the horse meat scandal was “very positive”.
Speaking in Westminster to Sky News, Clarke said the key message was that retailers, the supply chain and the Government will be working together to restore consumer confidence and prevent meat contimination in processed meat products again.
Following the meeting, environment secretary Owen Paterson, who is leading the investigation into the scandal, said: “All food businesses, from throughout the industry, are determined to work together to rebuild the certainty and trust consumers deserve.
“I welcome the food businesses’ commitment to testing their products.”
He added: “They all assured me that they will not rest until they have established the full picture. There is still much to be done to find out exactly how this happened and how it can be prevented from happening again, and to do everything possible to reassure consumers about the food on our shelves.”
Speaking about his trip to Europe last week to examine the supply chain and how horse meat contaminated beef products in the UK, he added: “There appears to be criminal activity. We have active investigations in France which are being co-ordinated through Europol.”
The meeting comes as sales of frozen burgers plunged 40% year-on-year last week as shoppers shunned own label burgers for branded equivalents following the horse meat scandal, according to a survey by Nielsen.
All retailers have reported a fall in sales of frozen burgers as consumer confidence in the products has been severely knocked by the scandal.
Retailers were given the all-clear on Friday when the first set of test results demanded by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) were published. It revealed that, excluding the five contaminated products that are already known about, The Co-op, Tesco’s, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons were clear of horse meat in their products. Iceland also said all its own brand beef products were free from horse meat.
The British Retail Consortium also attended the meeting this afternoon. Director general Helen Dickinson said more tests results from retailers came in over the weekend. Addional test results are expected on Friday, with another update scheduled for Friday March 1. After that food businesses will update the FSA on their test results every three months.
“Retailers take their responsibilities very seriously and are doing everything they can to maintain consumer confidence and increase surveillance,” Dickinson said. “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.
“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.”