Food manufacturing bosses and retail chiefs have joined forces to hit back at government criticism that the food industry "remained silent" over the horsemeat crisis.
Bakkavör chief executive Agust Gudmundsson and Patrick Coveney, group ceo Greencore, joined forces with Sainsbury chief executive Justin King and Philip Clarke, Tesco’s group chief executive, and five other food industry bosses to respond to criticism from Number 10 Downing Street.
Sources close to the Prime Minister said: “It isn’t acceptable for retailers to remain silent while consumers have been misled about the content of the food they have been buying.”
‘Anger and outrage’
But in an open letter , food manufacturers, leading retailers and foodservice companies protested today (February 15) that they understood and shared shoppers' “anger and outrage”.
The signatories said: “We are working around the clock to complete the most comprehensive testing of processed beef products ever undertaken, anywhere in the world. We are openly sharing the results of these tests and acting immediately to withdraw any product where there is any doubt as to its authenticity.”
They confirmed that the food industry was “determined to restore consumer confidence in the food we sell as quickly as possible”.
The letter went on to say: “We can't accept a situation where the trust customers place in us is being compromised by fraudulent activity or even, as alleged, an international criminal conspiracy.”
‘Whatever steps are necessary’
The signatories promised to work with government and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) not only to get to the bottom of how this has happened but to take whatever steps are necessary to reassure customers that they can trust the food they buy.
The letter claimed that British retailers, manufacturers and wholesalers already had some of the most rigorous testing and auditing systems in the world. But they pledged to “re-strengthen” their procedures to ensure that “every part of the supply chain is in no doubt of the obligations we all share to the consumer”.
The signatories concluded: “Nothing is more important to us than our consumers’ trust. We will do whatever it takes to restore public confidence in the food they buy and eat.”
Other top retailers who signed the letter included Steve Murrells, the Co-operative Group’s chief executive – food retail and Dalton Philips, chief executive, Morrisons.
The FSA is to deliver the results of widespread testing processed meat products for horse DNA today.
- Philip Clarke, group chief executive, Tesco
- Andy Clarke, president and ceo, Asda Stores
- Richard Cousins, group chief executive Compass Group
- Patrick Coveney, group ceo, Greencore
- Agust Gudmundsson, chief executive, Bakkavor
- Philip Jansen, group chief executive, Brakes
- Justin King, chief executive, Sainsbury
- Chris Martin, ceo, Musgrave Group
- Charles Wilson, chief executive, Booker Group