Speaking after the meeting between food manufacturers, retailers, foodservice providers and UK, Scottish and Welsh ministers, Richard Lockhead said: “I highlighted that in my view there is an absolute need for supply chains to be shorter and easier to track and for high quality local produce to be used whenever possible.
"What was very clear, was that everyone in the room wants to resolve this issue as quickly as possible so that consumers regain the confidence and trust they have always had in Scottish and UK food providers.”
Lockhead added that it was reassuring that the vast majority of tests for horse meat proved negative. But he added: “We cannot be complacent and a precautionary approach will continue to be taken.”
Processed meat products
Meanwhile, retailers attending the meeting told the environment secretary Owen Paterson that the vast majority of tests on processed beef products would be completed by Friday (February 22).
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said, after the meeting, that retailers were doing all they can to “establish the extent and causes of failures in the supply chain”.
Helen Dickinson, BRC director general, said: “Test results have continued to come in over the weekend. The labs are working flat out and our members are confident that the vast majority of testing will be completed by Friday. We were very pleased that the secretary of state recognised the hard work of retailers in progressing their testing programmes so quickly.”
Speaking after sources close to the Prime Minister slammed supermarkets for their "silence" on horse meat on Friday (February 15), Dickinson said: “Retailers take their responsibilities very seriously and are doing everything they can to maintain consumer confidence and increase surveillance. 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.”
Dickinson added that the BRC’s top priority was to continue to engage with our customers and reassure them that retailers had effective solutions to contamination scandal. Retailers were using every available channel − from social and traditional media to answering questions in-store – to communicate with customers.
“It’s clear that there will be things that need to change for the future as a result of these incidents,” said Dickinson. “Retailers are scrutinising their systems and processes, alongside intelligence gathering and sharing to identify practical improvements that will turn the lessons learned into action.”
A former government chief scientific adviser accused the government yesterday (February 17) of contributing to the crisis by "disembowelling" the Food Standards Agency.