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Scandal and weather torpedo British food ingredients

By Lorraine Mullaney , 04-Feb-2013
Last updated on 04-Feb-2013 at 10:41 GMT

Burger King’s announcement that it has switched to German and Italian beef suppliers in the wake of the horse meat scandal is the latest in a line of broken food industry pledges to ‘buy British’.

ABP Foods’ Silvercrest facility was approved to supply the fast food chain with 100% Irish and British beef patties for its restaurants in the UK, Ireland and Denmark. However, supplies had been contaminated with an ingredient from a Polish firm that contained horse meat DNA.

A statement from Burger King said: “They promised to deliver 100% British and Irish beef patties and have not done so. This is a clear violation of our specifications, and we have terminated our relationship with them.

Burger King would not confirm whether the transition to using German and Italian beef suppliers was a permanent one but stated: “We remain committed to identifying suppliers that can produce 100% pure Irish and British beef products for us that meet our high quality standards.” 

100% British wheat pledge

Quality was also an issue for Hovis when it dropped its 100% British wheat pledge last month (January 10), after poor weather affected UK harvests and damaged wheat stocks.

The brand, which is owned by Premier Foods, will now be made with up to a third less UK wheat. In a separate development, Premier Foods announced it planned to close its Glasgow flour mill . It is now sourcing wheat from the EU.

Too much UK rain and not enough sun have led Carr’s Flour to predict an increase in its use of imported wheat by 20% for 2013.

The miller, which supplies large industrial bakeries, large biscuit manufacturers, pie and pastry manufacturers and small bakeries, will be importing stock primarily from the US and Canada.

Supply channels open

Carr’s Flour Mills md Duncan Monroe told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “Our policy has always been to source and use the best wheat for the job. And that sometimes means using imported wheat. We have to keep the supply chain channels open.”

Ensuring flexibility of wheat supply led Carr’s Flour Mills to invest £17M in the construction of a modern factory alongside its old flour mill in Kirkaldy, Scotland.

Carr’s will use the newly reopened Kirkaldy port to import wheat when UK stocks run low or the quality was in question.

Importing supplies from long distances is still cheaper than sourcing locally.

Monroe said: “Good quality home grown wheat is so scarce that prices have risen to import parity. Depending on where your mills are situated, the relative price of imported wheat is not great. It’s the market doing its job.”

Poor planting conditions

Predictions for this year’s harvest are even more dismal as planting conditions are so poor.

“The harvest runs from September 2012 to August 2013, so the die is already cast now,” said Monroe. “People are getting worried about availability of sufficient quality wheat for 2013/14 because of the poor planting conditions.”

Poor soil structure has also affected the potato harvest to the extent that McCain Foods broke its 100% British pledge last month (January 25).

Despite working closely with its growers to minimise the impact of the poor harvest, the company said the UK potato crop had taken such a big hit that it had been forced to source some potatoes from Europe.

McCain said it was still committed to using 100% British potatoes.

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