“We are a strong company and we have done exactly what our customers would expect [to remedy horsemeat contamination],” Clarke told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “I’m as sure as sure can be there won’t be any more problems with equine DNA in [Tesco] food.”
Clarke added: “I’m absolutely certain and would like to reassure our customers that they have nothing to fear. Our food is great.”
Clarke went on to say that the European Commission report yesterday (April 17) confirmed how widespread the problem of horsemeat contamination had become.
“Look at the report out yesterday from the EU and how much of it [horsemeat] is in products sold in the Eurozone,” said Clarke.
The EC report revealed that 4,144 tests of meat samples from the 27 Member States had revealed 5% were contaminated with horse DNA.
Also, 3,115 tests were conducted for the banned veterinary drug phenylbutazone, of which 16 or 0.51% were positive.
The Food Manufacture Group is staging a free-one hour webinar – Horsemeat: learning the lessons of an avoidable crisis – on May 16 at 11am GMT. See the end of this article for more details.
Clarke went on to say that the discovery of horsemeat contamination in four Tesco products “shocked us all”. The retailer waited quite a time to ensure that no further contamination was present. “Then, we did exactly what I hope customers would expect – we made pledges to buy more from home.”
Earlier this week the government launched “a wide-ranging review” of the horsemeat crisis. The aim will be to “restore and maintain consumer confidence in the food chain and consider the responsibilities of food businesses and practice throughout the wider food chain…”, said farm and food minister David Health in a statement.
Pre-tax profits down 51%
Meanwhile, Tesco has reported pre-tax profits down 51% to £1.96bn – its first profit drop in 20 years – and revealed plans to close its US chain of Fresh & Easy shops in its full-year results for the 52 weeks to February 23.
Profits after tax – which included the cost of quitting its US business – were £120M, a fall of 95.7% compared with its previous financial year.
How food businesses can protect themselves against a repeat of the horsemeat crisis – with all the financial cost and reputational damage it has brought – will be the subject of a free-one hour webinar staged by the Food Manufacture Group at 11am GMT on May 16.
Taking part will be speakers from the Food Standards Agency, Leatherhead Food Research and business law firm and event sponsor DWF.
More information and a booking form is available here.