Nigel Broadhurst, buying director at Iceland, said he was astounded by the amount of press coverage the issued had received.
“I find it staggering, really, and maybe I’m making an above the parapet statement here, but the horsemeat, quote scandal, which hasn’t killed anybody, which hasn’t maimed anybody, which hasn’t caused anybody to be ill at all, has received probably 100 times more PR than a thousand people dying in hospitals in Staffordshire which received one cover, one day, once,” he said. Broadhurst made the comments during a question and answer session at the British Frozen Food Federation’s annual conference in Warwickshire yesterday (February 21).
BBC Panorama programme
Broadhurst also discussed the firm’s coverage in this week’s BBC Panorama programme in which chief executive Malcolm Walker made disparaging comments against the Irish , for which he later apologised.
“Let me take this head on,” he said. “We did two and a half hours behind the camera, being poked in the chest by the guy who was doing the interview for Panorama and they used about 35 seconds of it. Lesson learned: choose your own 35 seconds.
“The point he was trying to make, and what came across badly, was do not try and segment this problem to be a supermarket issue. If you take every sector of the marketplace and you look at manufacturers, and you look and caterers, and government, and schools, and hospitals, this is a problem that is likely to go across the whole of the industry.”
Earlier, in his presentation to delegates at the Chesford Grange Hotel, Broadhurst said the mainstream press had a negative perception of frozen food, typified by articles published in newspapers like the Daily Mail.
“You only have to read Saturday’s Daily Mail to get the journalistic view that frozen food is poor quality, cheap prices and dodgy recipes. Now we all know that is not true. In many cases freezing a product delivers a better result than any other form of preservation.
“Are you prepared to let the press slag off our industry, denigrate our products and ultimately send our market into decline or are you prepared to take some action and take it now?,” he asked.
The suppliers responsible for horsemeat getting into the food chain were also attacked by Broadhurst.
“There are lying cheating, robbing b*****ds who have put horsemeat in our previously very good quality beef products. They have done that consciously and they have done it to make a lot of money for themselves. They are a small minority of people. They are fraudulent and there is fraud is every industry, in every sector of the food chain.”
See March’s edition of our sister title Food Manufacture magazine for more coverage from the BFFF conference.