Tesco’s Dutch pork chop blunder ‘sign of lost control’

By Mike Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food standards agency Management

Tesco's pork chop blunder revealed how easy it is to lose control of supply chains, said Warwick Business School
Tesco's pork chop blunder revealed how easy it is to lose control of supply chains, said Warwick Business School
Tesco’s blunder in labelling a pork chop British with the Red Tractor Logo when it probably came from the Netherlands reveals how easily firms can lose control of their supply chains, according to Warwick Business School.

The school’s Dr Mark Johnson, associate professor of operations management at the school, said: “As firms outsource to other firms – creating supply chains – they lose control and visibility of what is going on, as suppliers outsource to other suppliers in the drive for lowest cost.”

The horsemeat scandal earlier this year was yet another example of how both retailers and manufacturers lost control of their supply chains, he added.

A Tesco spokesperson admitted this week (September 16): “We are extremely disappointed to discover a pork loin product probably came from a Dutch farm, not a British farm. When we specify that we want British pork, we expect to be supplied with British pork.

‘This mistake is unacceptable’

“We have spoken with our supplier to make clear that this mistake is unacceptable. Further testing on more products has confirmed the country of origin is correct in all cases. We’ve recently trialled this new isotope testing and we are talking to BPEX about how we can develop this alongside our existing tests, to bring even more rigour to our food testing programme.”

The admission was particularly embarrassing for Tesco after the retail giant’s boss Philip Clarke pledged to “bring meat home”​ in February.

Clarke told the National Farmers Union conference the horsemeat scandal had brought the UK food industry to “a pivotal moment”​ and pledged to introduce more stringent testing procedures.

The pork chop in question carried the British Red Tractor logo, which is restricted to British produce, and was bought by a BBC journalist in a Tesco store in Salford, Greater Manchester. It was then sent for tests organised by the British Pig Executive (BPEX) and conducted by Longhand Data.

Certainly did not come from the UK

Roger Young, md of Longhand Data, told FoodManufacture.uk the pork certainly did not come from the UK. It was 90% to 95% certain to have originated in the Netherlands, he said.

Young also described the paper traceability systems for meat as being “extraordinarily weak”​ even after the horsemeat crisis.

Meanwhile, the test used by Longhand Data – stable isotope reference analysis (SIRA) – has been adopted by BPEX to authenticate the provenance and traceability of Red Tractor pork. 

The test links pork to its geographical area of production. After proving reliable in trials, it has now been incorporated into the quality assurance schemes operated by the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA). The BMPA assurance schemes are used as part of the Red Tractor standards for pork and pork products.

Mick Sloyan, BPEX director, said: “By embracing the SIRA system, the UK pig industry has again demonstrated its willingness to employ the latest techniques to ensure that consumers can have every confidence in the quality and integrity of assured pork.”

Traceability and the authenticity of meat supply chains are two of the subjects under discussion at Food Manufacture’s​ one-day Food Safety Conference on Thursday October 17 at the National Motorcycle Museum, near Birmingham, with a presentation by former Food Standards Agency (FSA) authenticity expert Mark Woolfe.

More details of the conference – which also includes presentations from FSA operations director Andrew Rhodes and Sue Davies, policy director of Which? – along with ticket reservations are available here​.

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