Tesco pork chop row deepens as supplier rejects foreign meat claims

By Mike Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Pork Bbc radio 4

Guilty or innocent? The Tesco pork chop labelled as British was 99% certain to have come from foreign meat.
Guilty or innocent? The Tesco pork chop labelled as British was 99% certain to have come from foreign meat.
The slaughterhouse linked to the Tesco pork chop wrongly labelled as British has denied supplying foreign meat.

The firm FA Gill – which Tesco has axed as an approved supplier – denied responsibility after claiming isotope independent tests proved its on-site slaughtered pork was 100% British.

Tesco’s supplier Cranswick Country Foods had linked FA Gill to the loin meat from which the pork chop was made.

Charles Gill, the firm’s director, said: “We know that that this ​[isotope test] will re-assure our customers that not only is pork from farm assured pigs killed in Wolverhampton 100% British, but it also demonstrates the integrity of the hard-working pig farmers and skilled butchers here in England.”

‘Less than 1% chance’

The row erupted on Monday September 16 when BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today ​and You and Yours programmes​ disclosed that isotope tests carried out on a sample of Tesco pork chops had revealed there was a less than 1% chance the pork came from Britain – despite bearing the Red Tractor logo.

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.

A Tesco spokeswoman admitted: “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.”

Tesco had contacted its supplier to make clear that this mistake was unacceptable, she added.

While FA Gill was not currently supplying pork to Tesco, the firm said it was confident it could restore the relationship so that its pork could return to the retailer’s shelves.

“FA Gill has supplied Cranswick for more than 20 years with an unblemished record. Our documentation proves that only whole British pork is ever supplied to Cranswick,”​ said Gill.

‘Impossible for foreign meat’

It was standard industry practice to have a full-time independent Food Standards Agency vet on site at all times and it was impossible for foreign meat to enter the process at any time, he added.

“Both Tesco and Cranswick have observed our production process, as recently as September 10 and have themselves seen that it is impossible for foreign meat to enter our British pork supply chain.”

A Cranswick spokesman told BBC News that it was “an isolated error”. No one from the firm was available to speak to FoodManufacture.co.uk.

Tesco told us last Friday (September 20) that its investigations were “on-going”.

Tesco’s blunder in labelling a pork chop as British with the Red Tractor Logo revealed how easily firms can lose control​ of their supply chains, warned Warwick Business School earlier this week.

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.”

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TESCO chops

Posted by Stan Clare - retired trade journalist,

While this investigation is ongoing, may I suggest studying the audit trail of how much went out from FA Gill, how much went in to Cranswicks and how much went to Tescos.

Naturally the waste factors will be known at each stage. Years ago I recall a VAT inspector visiting a company. The books appeared very correct. However this ferret discovered an error. A minor error but it was impossible for the profit, input and sales to balance over a certain period.

No doubt Tesco will get to the bottom of the mystery.

Certainly for all concerned, the sooner it does the better. Could a farmer have delivered some foreign beasts? Big contracts so often go hand-in-glove with large percentages of a company's business being devoted to that client. A loss usually leads to the business going down the pan - whether that's meat, textiles or plants.

We all get sucked into big slice contracts. That's ok while everything with major customers running is alright - until bang, it evaporates. It happened recently with a local printer. Suddenly his main customer of 40 years decided to place his business elsewhere; spelling doom for the workforce.

Everyone should ask the weekly question: What if ...?

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British Pigs

Posted by Richard Bradford-Knox,

I would like to know what makes a pig British?

Is it being born in the UK, slaughtered here or is it the breed or all of those factors?

It is many years since I worked on a pig farm but I seem to remember the breeds were mostly Danish.

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