Industry "responsible to their consumers", UK Food Secretary Paterson told Parliament

Industry "responsible to their consumers", UK Food Secretary Paterson told Parliament

The "prime responsibility" for ensuring the safety of the UK's food supply lies with "retailers and food producers", Food Secretary Owen Paterson said this evening (11 February).

Providing an update to the House of Commons on the horse meat scare, Paterson insisted the food industry must act decisively to identify horse meat that has already made its way into the food chain and ensure checks are in place to prevent such contamination in the future.

"It is unacceptable that people have been deceived in this way," Paterson stated. "Retailers and food producers have the prime responsibility for dealing with this... [and they] need to demonstrate security of food chain."

He added: "The retailers are responsible for the quality and the content of their food. It is for the retailers to decide. They are responsible for quality, they are responsible for the quality, they are responsible to their customers. And it is in their self-interest to do so because the want consumers to come back."

Paterson said representatives from the UK food industry has been in meetings with the government and the independent food safety watchdog, the Food Standards Agency. Tests are being carried out this week and "meaningful results" are due to be reported back to the FSA this Friday.

While placing responsibility for the scare squarely at the door of the food industry, Paterson warned the UK government would consider regulation to guarantee food safety.

"If anything suggests the need for change and surveillance in the UK we will not hesitate," Paterson insisted.

The Secretary for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs was providing Parliament with an update on the ongoing horse meat saga, which started last month with the revelation frozen beef burgers on sale in the UK contained the ingredient. In the last week, the affair has swept across Europe, with frozen food giant Findus recalling ready meals in the UK, France and Sweden and retailers in France and Germany pulling products.