Horse meat scandal: lessons still to be learned, say MPs

Gurjit Degun
15 January 2014

14 January 2014 | Gurjit Degun

The government select committee looking into the horse meat scandal has said that retailers still need to work on smaller supply chains.

One year on from the first UK contamination coming to light, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee chairwoman and Conservative MP Anne McIntosh said lessons still have to be learnt about how the scandal arose.

Following the revelations, tests found many processed meat products contained traces of horse meat, however no prosecutions have yet been made and Europe-wide investigations continue. 

Last week, the committee heard from professor Chris Elliott, the author of the latest review into the integrity of food supply. He said that action is still required to prevent future contamination. 

“Retailers still need to work on smaller supply chains,” said McIntosh. “By buying local we can more likely trace all sources of our food.

“Professor Elliott highlighted in particular the transportation of meat as being of highest risk and the storage of meat slabs. There is also a need for more food analysts to reduce the risk.”

The committee’s comments echo the results of a survey published today that found more than 80 per cent of large UK food manufacturers said the contamination incident “made no difference to how they manage information about suppliers”.

But the 146 respondents noted they have less confidence in suppliers lower down the supply chain, with the lowest confidence in suppliers from emerging countries.

The survey, commissioned by global supply chain risk management firm Achilles, added that just over half of all food and drink manufacturers have less information about their second tier suppliers than the first tier.

It added that 40 per cent of manufacturers have "never mapped out their entire supply chain to find out exactly who their suppliers are”.

However, 60 per cent said they were “very confident” that the way they manage their supply chain allows them to manage risk effectively.

Adrian Chamberlain, Achilles chief executive, said: “It is a cause for concern that most large food manufacturers are still struggling to improve information about their suppliers after the horse meat scandal.

“A key aspect of the incident was that it took several weeks for food companies to map out the supply chain and establish which businesses had received counterfeit meat.

“One year on, and we believe food manufacturers may still be open to experiencing similar issues, because only a minority have overcome the complex task of mapping out their supply chains to establish exactly who supplies who.”

He added: “We believe food and drinks manufacturers should act proactively and implement a single, coordinated system to manage information about all suppliers across the world and map their supply chains – before another horse meat scandal.”

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