Tesco will tell MPs later today (January 30) that one of its meat suppliers – Silvercrest, part of the ABP Food Group – was responsible for the discovery of horse DNA in some of its value burgers.
Tim Smith, Tesco group technical director and formerly Food Standards Agency boss, is expected to tell the influential cross-party Environmental, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) committee that Silvercrest sourced meat from non-approved suppliers.
Smith said in a statement this morning: “The evidence tells us that our frozen burger supplier, Silvercrest, used meat in our products that did not come from the list of approved suppliers we gave them. Nor was the meat from the UK or Ireland, despite our instruction that only beef from the UK and Ireland should be used in our frozen beef burgers.”
‘Breach of trust too great’
Tesco said it had dropped Silvercrest as a supplier because “the breach of trust is simply too great”.
The retailer also pledged to introduce a DNA testing system to ensure the quality of its meat products.
Smith said Tesco had “a well-equipped, expert technical team and world-class checks in place”. But he promised Tesco would “not take anything for granted” after this incident. “Ultimately, Tesco is responsible for the food we sell, so it is not enough just to stop using the supplier,” he said.
Meanwhile, ABP Food Group, owner of Silvercrest Foods, repeated its apology and pledged to become “an industry leader” in the DNA testing of meat.
Tesco booked full-page adverts in national newspapers on January 16 to issue an “unreserved apology” for selling beef burgers contaminated with horse DNA.
Horse and pig DNA
The horse meat scandal erupted when the Food Safety Authority Ireland discovered horse and pig DNA in value beef burgers sold by Tesco, Iceland, Lidl, Aldi and Dunnes Stores.
Up to 10M value burgers were withdrawn from sale by all the retailers involved in the incident.
Tesco products affected were its Everyday Value 8 x Frozen Beef Burgers (397g), 4 x Frozen Beef Quarter Pounders (454g) and Flamehouse Frozen Chargrilled Quarter Pounders.
Last week the Irish government revealed that tests at Silvercrest had traced the horse DNA contamination to an unnamed Polish ingredients supplier.
ABP Food Group also said it had traced the supplier concerned but refused to name the company.
Joining Smith in giving evidence to the EFRA select committee will be Trish Twohig, Iceland technical director, farming minister David Heath, public health minister Anna Soubry and from the Food Standards Agency: Jeff Rooker, Catherine Brown and Steve Wearne.
Watch out for our report from the EFRA committee meeting tomorrow.
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