Speaking at the City Food Lecture in London’s Guildhall on Monday (February 25), Bulcke said: “Widespread fraud is being committed by a few across Europe. I understand that many consumers and many of you in the industry feel misled. I feel the same. This should not happen, it is unforgivable. We have let our consumers down.”
The Nestlé ceo said it was “wrong and unacceptable” that a minority had put the whole food industry and all the people involved in it in “a bad light”.
‘Most important asset’
Bulcke added that the scandal compromised the food sector’s most important asset. “The success of the food industry in general, and of companies such as Nestlé, is built on trust. Trust is our most important asset and we should all work hard not to lose it.”
Yet trust was being jeopardised by the contamination scandal, which was fuelling the fears of sometimes sceptical consumers.
“Food has never been safer and yet the perception is sometimes the opposite. But the current [horsemeat] issue is not a food safety issue, it is a trust issue.”
Bulcke pointed out that the food industry had played a key role in the global development of society in feeding millions of people with safe and nutritious products, yet was often “criticised unfairly”.
Last week (February 19) Nestlé was forced to remove beef pasta products in France, Spain and Italy when they were revealed to contain horse DNA.
More than 1% of horse DNA was found in two products, only days after Nestlé bosses said the giant was unaffected by the horsemeat crisis.
Bulcke used his lecture, ‘Water – the linchpin of food security’, to highlight the need for co-ordinated action to safeguard the water, food and energy needed to feed a further 2.3bn people on the planet by 2050.
Halal beef burgers
Meanwhile, the discovery of horse DNA in halal beef burgers has led to the removal of frozen beef products from Lancashire schools.
County council tests revealed horse DNA in halal beef burgers delivered to four schools.
Earlier this month the Food Standards Agency revealed that horsemeat had been discovered in the cottage pies supplied to schools in the county.
Hanif Dudhwala, from the Lancashire Council of Mosques, said he was “shocked and disgusted” by the revelations.
“We have no confidence whatsoever left in Lancashire County Council,” he told BBC News.
A council spokesman said the affected burgers were supplied only to four schools and all had been contacted.
For more breaking news, subscribe to our free newsletter delivered to your inbox every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.