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4 September 2014 | Will Green
“Adversarial procurement” practices among large retailers are a threat to the “integrity of the food industry”, according to a major report into the horse meat scandal.
Professor Chris Elliott, in his final report into the scandal, said procurement policies in “some food businesses, particularly some of the larger retailers, are a matter of concern” as they compete to cut prices.
“The culture of adversarial procurement has not changed and in some cases the review has learned that it has got worse,” he said.
“The review cautions against procurement of goods for less than the recognised reasonable price, based on market knowledge. This is neither good for the sustainability of UK farming nor the integrity of the food industry and ultimately impacts negatively on consumers.
“Recent reports in the media show the emergence of a new price war between some of the major retailers, and suppliers are already under pressure to further reduce prices. The food industry needs to realise the extent of their exposure should adulteration or substitution occur, both in terms of the potential for the endangerment of consumers, and brand damage and loss of revenue.”
In his interim report into the scandal Elliott mentioned an incident when a retailer asked a supplier to provide “gourmet” burger for 30p.
Elliott recommended the needs of consumers in relation to food safety and crime prevention should be “top priority” for the government and work should be done to tackle food crime, gather intelligence, improve laboratory testing services and audit supply chains.
In response the government has accepted all of Elliott’s recommendations, including setting up a new Food Crime Unit in the Food Standards Agency, to be operational by the end of the year, and supporting action to improve supply chain audits.
Environment secretary Elizabeth Truss said: “We’re taking action to make sure that families can have absolute confidence in the food that they buy. When a shopper picks something up from a supermarket shelf it should be exactly what it says on the label, and we’ll crack down on food fraudsters trying to con British consumers.”