UK: Tesco plans DNA tests on meat, ends Silvercrest contract

By Dean Best | 30 January 2013

Tesco said the tests would "set a new standard"

Tesco said the tests would "set a new standard"

Tesco plans to introduce DNA tests on all its meat products in the wake of the horse meat scandal, an affair that has led the UK retailer to drop one of the suppliers at the centre of the contamination.

The company said today (30 January) it would implement a "comprehensive system" of tests across its range of meat products.

"These checks will set a new standard," Tesco said. "It will be a significant investment for Tesco, borne by Tesco. We want to leave customers in no doubt that we will do whatever it takes to ensure the quality of their food and that the food they buy is exactly what the label says it is."

Tesco was one of a number of retailers found earlier this month to be selling beef burgers containing horse meat DNA. One Tesco sample showed horse meat accounted for around 29% of the product's beef content.

The burgers were supplied by plants in the UK and Ireland owned by meat processor ABP Food Group. Tesco said today it had decided to end its contract with one of the plants, Ireland-based Silvercrest.

"The evidence tells us that our frozen burger supplier, Silvercrest, used meat in our products that did not come from the list of approved suppliers we gave them. Nor was the meat from the UK or Ireland, despite our instruction that only beef from the UK and Ireland should be used in our frozen beef burgers," Tesco said. "Consequently we have decided not to take products from that supplier in future. We took that decision with regret but the breach of trust is simply too great."

A spokesperson for Tesco confirmed it would still use ABP as a supplier and said only Silvercrest had been "delisted". ABP could not be reached for immediate comment.

At the weekend, Irish agriculture officials said the horse DNA had been traced back to raw material from Poland.

ABP, which suspended production at its Silvercrest plant, said on Saturday it was "relieved" the source of contamination had been found. It added it had "never knowingly purchased or traded in equine product". The group has appointed a new management team at the Silvercrest plant and introduced its own new DNA tests.

Tesco said its own new DNA tests would "underpin the strong measures already in place" but added: "We will not take anything for granted after this incident. It has shown that, in spite of our stringent tests, checks and controls there remained a small possibility that something could go wrong and it did. We want to stop it ever happening again, so we are taking action to reduce that possibility still further."

As well as the UK's largest retailer, tests found Aldi, Lidl, Iceland Foods and Irish grocer Dunnes Stores had beef burgers on sale containing the material. The retailers recalled the products. UK retailers Asda, Sainsbury's and Waitrose also issued their own "precautionary" recalls.

Sectors: Food safety, Meat & poultry, Private label, Retail

Companies: Tesco, ABP Food Group, Aldi, Lidl, Iceland Foods, Dunnes Stores, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose

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