Horse meat burger scandal strengthens case for supplier development

18 January 2013

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18 January 2013 | Adam Leach

Buyers should use the horse meat burger scandal to highlight the importance of supplier development programmes and continuous improvement in the supply chain, and use it to get senior executive support.

This week it was revealed three lines of frozen beef burgers on sale at Tesco had been found to contain up to 29 per cent horse meat, following an investigation by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI).

Following the disclosure, Tesco said the meat had come from Silvercrest, a subsidiary of ABP Foods, who in turn passed the blame on to two suppliers in continental Europe.

Alan Day, managing director of consultancy State of Flux, told SM the incident showed the critical importance of checking the quality of supplies and working with suppliers on continuous improvement.

On the day the news broke £300 million was wiped off Tesco’s shares, and Day said this impact should highlight the importance of ongoing assessment. “If people are looking to do supplier management programmes, this should help their business case,” he added.

Law firm Burges Salmon, said firms must do all they can to ensure infractions are not found within their supply chains. “Every business within a food supply chain is vulnerable to the actions of its suppliers,” it said. “If you are in the chain then make sure you are doing all that is necessary to show you have fulfilled your legal responsibilities. It will never completely remove the risk, but might provide a valuable defence if things go wrong.”

Tesco would not comment on its supplier assessments, but in an apologetic advert published yesterday said: “We and our supplier have let you down and we apologise. We will find out exactly what happened and, when we do, we’ll come back and tell you. And we will work harder than ever with all our suppliers to make sure this never happens again.”

ABP Foods said it believed it has narrowed down the source of the contaminate supplies to two continental suppliers, and announced that it was temporarily closing its entire plant.

Tesco and other supermarkets selling the affected products - including Lidl and Iceland - immediately announced that they would be removing the products and offering full refunds. Sainsbury's, The Co-operative Food and Asda said their burgers did not contain the meat, but removed all products from Silvercrest as a precaution.

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