The UK’s advertising standards watchdog has found a Tesco advert, put out in the midst of the horsemeat scandal, was “misleading” in its suggestion that the “whole food industry” was the cause of the crisis.

Tesco was one of the first retailers to become embroiled in the horsemeat scandal earlier this year, when it emerged that own brand frozen beef burgers were contaminated with horsemeat.

The horsemeat scandal widened to take in various other European retailers and food manufacturers. Horsemeat was detected in numerous ready made beef products, from lasagne to meatloaf. 

The UK retailer responded to the scandal by insisting that it needs to “bring production home”. Tesco unveiled plans to purchase more UK meat and shorten supply chains.

A Tesco ad, taken out in national newspapers, read: “The problem we’ve had with some of our meat lately is about more than burgers and bolognese. It’s about some of the ways we get meat to your dinner table. It’s about the whole food industry. And it has made us realise, we really do need to make it better.”

However, the advertising offensive that Tesco launched prompted complaints to the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA). 

Complaints centred on the fact that not all those in the food chain operated in a manor that would enable beef to be substituted with horsemeat from Eastern Europe. The ASA added that complainants also argued that the Tesco advert “unfairly denigrated” food suppliers who were not drawn into the scandal.

The advertising watchdog upheld the first complaint, concluding: “Because the ad implied that all retailers and suppliers were likely to have sold products contaminated with horse meat, and because relatively few instances of contamination had been identified at the time the ad appeared, we concluded the ad was misleading.”

The second complaint was rejected on the basis that Tesco had not referenced other marketers.

Tesco was not immediately available for comment.