Keep it local, but food safety comes at a price, says Tesco

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Local food Hazard analysis and critical control points Food Tesco

Keep it local, but food safety comes at a price, says Tesco
Tesco says new third-party safety audits are a drain on local food and drink firms

Tesco is challenging the use of third-party audits of suppliers as it seeks to protect its brand from potentially damaging food scares and product recalls.

The multiple retailer is known to have held meetings with the British Retail Consortium (BRC) to discuss its concerns about the BRC Global food standard, which is primarily designed for large own-label suppliers.

Tesco's head of local sourcing, Emily Shamma has also expressed worries about another new entry level, third-party certification scheme: Safe and Local Supplier Approval (Salsa), aimed at small local food producers.

Local food is a growing area of Tesco's business. It has just announced plans to more than double its sales of locally produced foods, from £400M this year to £1bn by 2011.

"Local is one of the most important trends in retail," said Shamma. "But doing it well is hard." Tesco now has a team of over 30 people dedicated to local food products. It also has five new regional buying offices to source products across England. Over half of its local suppliers have turnovers below £1M.

Shamma told a food safety conference organised by CIES, The Food Business Forum, last month that she was concerned about the costs to small businesses of Salsa. She also questioned the lack of specific references to using metal detection within the scheme.

"We support [Salsa], but we think it is a little bit costly for some of our suppliers," she said. However, at a Salsa stakeholders' meeting earlier this year (see p55), attendees were told Regional Food Groups could allocate funds to cover mentoring of small food companies in preparation for auditing and for the Salsa audit itself.

Tesco has appointed a team of technical experts across the UK to assist local food companies meet its process and hygiene requirements and pass its audits. It did not charge small suppliers for this assistance during the first 12 months and would continue to offer it free to the smallest suppliers even after that, said Shamma.

Around 40% of potential suppliers failed the Tesco audit first time round, reported Shamma. "Hazard analysis critical control points and good manufacturing practice tend to be totally unknown," she said.

However, she added some of the most innovative products Tesco now stocked came from local suppliers. It expected to be offering 3,000 local lines next year, having doubled what it currently stocks, and to double that figure the following year.

Food Manufacture​ is holding a conference on product recall in Warwick on March 6. For details visit:

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