Tesco apologises over horse meat scandal

TESCO has apologised to its customers in a full page advert in national newspapers over the revelation that it has been selling beef burgers containing horse meat.

The chief executive of the UK’s biggest retailer, which saw a fall in its share price on Wednesday on the back of the back of the scandal, has said he is ‘angry’ with Tesco’s suppliers about the episode but insists the retailer will not ‘hide behind its suppliers’ when it comes to accountability.

The adverts carry the headline “We Apologise”.

They carry on: “We and our supplier have let you down and we apologise. People in our country will have been very concerned to read this morning that when they thought they were buying beefburgers they were buying something that had horse meat in it”

“So here’s our promise. We will find out exactly what happened and, when we do, we’ll come back and tell you.

“And we will work harder than ever with all our suppliers to make sure this never happens again.”

Tesco promised that customers who had bought the burgers in question would be eligible for a full refund. The products affected were Tesco Everyday Value frozen beef Burgers, Tesco Frozen Beef Quarter Pounders (454g) and a branded product, Flamehouse Frozen Chargrilled Quarter Pounders.

In a blog, Tesco chief executive Philip Clarke stressed that ‘this is not a safety issue’, with the food safety authorities in London and Dublin confirming that ‘horse meat poses no health risk’.

The burgers were in question were supplied by two processors, Silverscrest, in Ireland, and Dalepak, Hambleton, in Yorkshire. ABP, which owns both plants, has said its investigations are focussing on two companies in continental Europe that supply it with beef ingredients that are added to forequarter mince in the processing of the burgers,

Mr Clarke said: “If some of our customers are angry, so are we. We expect our suppliers to deliver to a standard, and to meet basic food traceability rules.

“But our customers shop with Tesco, not our suppliers, so you won’t find us hiding behind suppliers. It’s our job to ensure they are meeting our high standards. The first step to rebuilding trust is honesty and transparency, and that is why we will continue to tell our customers everything we know and everything we are doing to stop anything like this happening again.”

He stressed that, as a food retailer, customers must have confidence in the products on offer and ‘trust is essential’.

“As a customer, you need to know that the food you buy and consume is what it says it is. Trust is hard won and easily lost,” he said.

He sought to reassure customers that when things go wrong Tesco will ‘go above and beyond what is merely necessary’ to look after customers and ‘do the right thing’.

Prime Minister David Cameron has described the episode as ‘a completely unacceptable state of affairs’.

Speaking during Prime Minister’s Questions, he said: “People in our country will have been very concerned to read this morning that when they thought they were buying beefburgers, they were buying something that had horsemeat in it.”

He called for an urgent investigation by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), which called a meeting a meeting of industry representatives on Wednesday afternoon to try and getting an understanding of the extent of problem.

Asda and Sainsbury’s have become the latest retailers to withdraw products from sale as a result of the scandal, even though they were not directly implicated in the initial Food Standards Authority of Ireland investigation.

Millions of burgers have been withdrawn from sale in Ireland and the UK in a bid to shore up consumer confidence.  

Readers' comments (9)

  • Any chance this horsemeat was coming out of Intervention and being re-boxed?

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  • why don't they also apologies to the Countries beef farmers for damaging the reputation of their product? It is no doubt that it is beef farmers that will be hit by reduced sales.

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  • When the time, effort and expense that farmers are expected to expend complying with Farm Assurance standards, and often the need to jump through extra hoops at the insistence of supermarkets, it is galling to see those supermarkets throw away the benefits that they and their suppliers should gain from selling premium products just to scrape a few pence extra profit. Disgusting.

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  • DEFRA knew about the horse meat burgers well before Christmas yet has gone on the offensive regarding CAP payments to UK farmers.

    DEFRA places "philosphy" and the "market" before good honest UK farmers following cross compliance.

    Where is the "market" now Mr Patterson ? Still want to really on the "market" ?

    Where has your "philosphy" got the UK food industry ?

    Time this failed department was closed down, no help for UK industry, no help for UK consumers - a complete and utter failure.

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  • From the Independant in Ireland:

    "British supermarkets might have been selling beef contaminated with horse meat for years because of lax food regulations, experts said yesterday.

    Its Food Standards Agency was criticised after admitting it had never carried out tests for horse meat on food sold in Britain."

    The rest of the article is well worth reading. Basically DEFRA has allowed people to consume burgers with upto 29% horse meat in them for over a month - because "there is no risk to human health".

    So DEFRA, FSA, the food processors and Tesco are all not testing the "meat" they put into UK food.

    What do we pay taxes for ?

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  • We as UK farmers should jump on this scandal that exposes the multiples for what they are ,they do not care one bit about farmers or consumers but only the profit margin they can generate for shareholders and I think the whole system needs looking into before the farming industry is left in tatters again by a BSE like disaster.

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  • Will the supermarkets be compensating the farmers for the loss of income that this debacle has caused the beef industry due to reduced market and abbatoir prices? If not, why not? This will affect the nationwide beef market, not just the individual companies such as Dalepak and ABP.
    Were these products British Farm Assured or european assurances? If they were what are we paying british assurance schemes for?

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  • In China in 2011, Walmart was forced to shut a number of stores for a couple of weeks as a punishment for repeatedly mis-labelling low grade food as prime quality. Armed police guarded the doors to ensure they stayed shut. Why can't the Food Standards Agency here take similar action to enforce the message that food must not contain rubbish?

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  • Sir, what has happened to the quality control from these burger companies, DEFRA, and FSA, NFU, Natural England, all need closing down, we can manage without them, they are not fit for purpose and if they were run as a business they would be bankrupt inside 6 months.

    These government departments must employ people who can't find jobs in industry, so the government employ them to keep the jobless figures looking good.

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