Local councils are to blame for driving down food quality with cheap food contracts for schools and hospitals, the boss of Iceland has said.
Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Malcolm Walker said the “problem really lies” with councils buying food from the poorly supplied catering industry.
Watch video here—->BBC News – Iceland boss ‘wouldn’t eat value products’
Retailers should not be blamed for the horsemeat crisis, Mr Walker added.
The Local Government Association said councils were not to blame for what had been “a major supply chain failure”.
Mr Walker’s comments followed a call on Sunday from the boss of Waitrose for tighter meat testing controls.
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson is to meet representatives from Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Tesco, Asda, the Food and Drink Federation, and the Institute of Grocery Distribution on Monday afternoon.
A Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) spokeswoman said the meeting would allow Mr Paterson to get an update on testing results and find out more about what businesses are doing to restore consumer confidence.
Iceland was among UK retailers, including Tesco, Asda, Lidl and Aldi, which withdrew products found to test positive for horse DNA.
After Iceland removed a line of quarter-pounder beefburgers last month, the north Wales-based firm said it “would be working closely with its suppliers” to ensure its products met “high standards of quality and integrity”.
Mr Walker told the BBC: “British supermarkets have got a fantastic reputation for food safety, they go to enormous lengths to protect their brand.”
He insisted supermarkets were already extremely transparent about food quality and testing.
“If we’re going to blame somebody let’s start with local authorities, because there’s a whole side to this industry which is invisible – that’s the catering industry. Schools, hospitals – it’s massive business for cheap food and local authorities award contracts based purely on one thing – price,” he said.
He added: “Iceland has never sold economy products – we do not sell cheap food… we know where all our food comes from, we follow the supply chain right the way through and it’s very short.”
Supermarkets were not the real culprits in “driving down food quality”, he said.
“Dodgy cutting houses and backstreet manufacturers have been supplying products to the catering industry and a lot of that is bought by local authorities for schools and hospitals – that’s where the problem really lies,” he added.
Merrick Cockell, chairman of the LGA, said the relationship between a council and a caterer was the same as that between a retailer and a consumer.
“We have a contract with that retailer to provide us with what it says on the wrapper and that is exactly the same with local government providing contracts for school meals or, indeed, the NHS with hospitals.
“Clearly in some cases, relatively few cases, that has not been happening and actually for the boss of Iceland to appear and make that suggestion… well I hope he knows more about what’s actually going on in retailing than he clearly does in contracting and local government.”
A Local Authorities Caterers Association spokeswoman said it was “disappointed” with Mr Walker’s remarks.
“Local authorities across the country have been totally supportive of driving food standards up in schools over the last few years,” she told BBC News.
She insisted providers adhered to stringent “procurement policies and procedures for sourcing and ensuring quality control of food products for school menus”.
“With monitoring and control tighter than ever before, quality of food served in schools has risen, not fallen,” she added.
Waitrose also withdrew a number of products when the horsemeat scandal came to light.
Although none tested positive for horse DNA, some own-brand meatballs were found to contain traces of pork.
Managing director Mark Price said the John Lewis-owned firm would set up its own freezing plant to prevent cross-contamination.
Speaking to The Sunday Telegraph, Mr Price urged the food industry to apply “renewed rigour” to their testing regimes.
He said: “If something good comes of the current scandal, I hope it is the opening up of a debate around the true economics of food.
“The simple fact is that food cannot be seen as a cheap commodity when so many factors are working against that premise, including population growth.”
Meanwhile, former Food Standards Agency manager John Young told the Sunday Times he had alerted the government in 2011 to the “debacle” of horse passports, which were supposed to stop the painkiller bute entering the food chain, but was ignored.
A Defra spokesperson responded that Mr Paterson had asked the FSA’s chief executive and Defra officials to look into the allegations, insisting it was “clear Defra and the FSA have taken action on the issue… when information has been passed to us”.
“In January 2012, Defra and the FSA increased checks on horse passports, meaning every horse was checked twice, and from last week no horse can enter the food chain until it is confirmed to be free of bute,” they said.
The FSA said it had submitted a “full file” on its horsemeat investigation to Europol, the EU’s law enforcement agency, with information being analysed in 35 countries in Europe and elsewhere.
THIS IS NOT A RECENT PHENOMENON AND THE MEAT DOESN’T JUST COME FROM EASTERN EUROPE!
IT IS HAPPENING HERE,IN OUR OWN BACKYARD!!!
THIS VIDEO CONTAINS DISTURBING IMAGES,VIEWER DISCRETION IS ADVISED…XXXXX
Robert Gulliford, Son Of Robert William Brooks, very kindly forwarded the following addition :
This Above Report Mistakenly Does Not Reflect The Following:-
The UK Used To Produce The Finest And Highest Quality Beef In The World….Pristine. Halal Slaughtering And Cutting Plants, Along With Halal Certification Have Been Allowed To Take Over. ZAKAT TAXES Are Extracted From All Who Partake Of Those Goods And Services Whether They Want Them Or Not. This Means That JEWS, MESSIANICS, BIBLE-BELIEVING CHRISTIANS, SIKHS, Who Are All Commanded Not To Partake Of Such Things That Are Offered (sacrificed, prayed over), In The Names Of Idols, allah Is An Idol (False God), Are Having To Defile Their Creator, Or Go A Long Way In Search Of Unsullied Meats And Goods And Services. They Are Likely To Be Paying More For This, Because Many Halal Certified Enterprizes Are Able To Take Advantage Through Claiming Charity Status And Undercut Non Halal Producers For Price.
WHAT IS NEEDED IS A LABEL WHICH STATES THAT AN ITEM HAS BEEN PRAYED OVER, AND IN THE NAME OF……….AND THE NAME OF THE “GOD”. BENEATH THAT THERE OUGHT TO BE A DECLARATION SAYING YES OR NO, WHETHER IT HAS BEEN PASSED AS HALAL (ALLOWED), OR HARAM (NOT ALLOWED), AND, WITH THAT, THERE OUGHT TO BE CLEARLY MARKED THAT ZAKAT IS LEVIED ON PURCHASE, ALONG WITH A CLEAR STATEMENT OF WHETHER IT IS PRODUCED AND SUPPLIED BY PRODUCERS THAT HAVE CHARITY STATUS, ALONG WITH THE NAMES OF THOSE CHARITIES.
Supermarket apologises as BBC reporter buys withdrawn burger after cashier in Oxford overrides warning message
Tesco has apologised and launched an urgent investigation after one of its stores sold burgers which were meant to have been withdrawn last week amid the horsemeat contamination scare.
Britain’s largest supermarket chain acted after a BBC reporter managed to buy a packet of Tesco-brand “free from” frozen quarter pounders after a member of staff overrode an alert message on the till at a store in Cowley, Oxford.
The BBC had been tipped off by a customer that lines removed by the company as a precaution were still on sale.
Tesco said: “While this product was not implicated in the FSAI investigation, and was withdrawn as a precaution, we are urgently investigating how this product came to be on a shelf in store.
“The block on purchase at the checkout should not have been overridden. We sincerely apologise for this, and we have spoken to the store to ensure this does not happen again.”
Tests by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) found 29% equine DNA in one Tesco burger sample and traces in another. Other companies with contaminated samples were Iceland, Lidl and Aldi, although the Aldi line was not sold in Britain.
Supermarkets have also withdrawn unaffected lines made at the Silverdale plant in County Monaghan, Ireland, and Dalepak in north Yorkshire, both part of the ABP Foods group. Waitrose was the latest to do so on Friday.
In a statement, Waitrose, whose products were not tested by the Irish authorities, said its burgers had since been found to be 100% beef. “As a consequence we are 100% confident in the integrity of our supply chain,” it said. “The ingredients in our burgers are simple with all meat traceable back to British farms that we know.
“Our technical team visited the Dalepak site last week and were happy that our products were produced to our high specification and separately from other companies’ products (ours are produced at 6am, before other any other burgers).”