As the horse meat scandal expands to new countries and implicates more companies, Retail Week looks at the story so far.
What is the latest news?
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson is meeting with MPs to update them on the latest developments this afternoon and has said an “extensive” criminal conspiracy may have taken place. Paterson has stressed that horsemeat is safe to eat and consumers can continue to eat frozen meat products already purchased. He added that a called-for moratorium on EU meat imports is not allowed under EU legislation.
Where did the meat originate?
It still remains unclear where the horse meat originated from and investigations by food safety officials across Europe are aiming to pinpoint the source. A supplier in Luxembourg, implicated in the discovery of horse meat on sale in beef products in six French supermarkets, warned customers in 14 different countries including Sweden and Poland that there was horse meat in their products.
Paterson said reports from France suggested the problem had been pinned down to two abattoirs in Romania. The Independent reported large numbers of horses and donkeys previously used to draw carts in Romania may have been slaughtered after rules changed six years ago stating the animals were no longer allowed on the country’s roads. The meat has largely been used as “filler” in frozen beef burgers and ready meal products however a Findus lasagne tested last week was found to be 99% horsemeat.
Suppliers to Silvercrest were last month found to have sourced products containing horse meat from Poland.
How have retailers reacted?
Retailers including Tesco and Sainsbury’s, as well as suppliers, held crisis talks with Paterson on Saturday to discuss recent developments. Dalton Philips, chief executive of Morrisons - which has not been implicated in the scandal and owns its own farms - said the food supply chain is “too complex”. He told the BBC: “The supply chain has become far too complex. The retailer or the manufacturer does not know where the product is coming from because there’s too many people in the way.
“It doesn’t need to be complicated and we’ve got to bring it back to its simplest terms and when you introduce complexity you introduce risk. The UK has moved away in the search for cheap food.”
Aldi has delisted French supplier Comigel and told shoppers to return any of the supplier’s lasagne and bolognese to its stores.
How have consumers reacted?
ICM research for Retail Week showed the majority of a poll of a 2,000 shoppers believed suppliers and manufacturers were to blame. However, 45% said they would avoid buying meat from the grocers as a result of the scandal.
Legal action is set to begin in continental Europe today against suppliers and the French government is in talks with meat industry representatives. Three Findus subsidiaries in the UK, France and Sweden are considering law suits against suppliers. Aldi has said it will “support any appropriate legal action taken against any supplier that knowingly does wrong”. Paterson has warned Foods Standards Agency test results on products from several countries due on Friday could bring further bad news.