Horse meat scandal means tests on chicken and pork as costs mount


horsemeat butcher

As more shocking news continues to emerge regarding horse meat on the shelves in UK supermarkets, The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has told one newspaper that in the wake of the scandal, there's likely to be more testing needed - not just of beef, but of pork and chicken too.

This would add a significant cost to a scandal which has already cost the industry a small fortune.

More tests

The FSA told the Telegraph that at the moment retailers were focusing on testing the products that use beef that is so finely ground that it could easily contain other meats without being detected. However, chief executive Catherine Brown added that in order to build public confidence after the scandal had passed more testing would be required. She said: "It is not lost on retailers that they need to test significantly across this product range, across wider meat-based product ranges."

The FSA said in a separate statement: "This is a very serious issue. The evidence we have about the two cases, of the significant amount of horse meat in burgers and lasagne, points to either gross negligence or deliberate contamination in the food chain. This is why we have already involved the police, both here and in Europe. "

"In the particular cases of the Findus lasagne and the Tesco burgers, they have been withdrawn from sale. Anyone who has them in their freezer should return them to retailers as a precaution. In addition to the widespread testing we are doing, we've instructed the industry to urgently carry out its own tests on processed beef products to see whether horse meat is present." The first set of results will be published on Friday.

New regime

The FSA has said that all cross-contamination concerns had to be reported from now on. According to a report in the Grocer Magazine, Department for Food and Rural Affairs secretary for state Owen Paterson said he had ordered the industry to publish testing figures every three months and to test further down the food chain. This will be enforced by the FSA, which doesn't have the power to force companies to comply. However, retailers are expected to voluntarily do this as a major step in reassuring the public.

This will not come cheap.

The cost

The meat industry has already taken a huge hit as a result of the scandal. Supermarkets have ditched some of the suppliers implicated in the scandal, which will cost the suppliers in question millions of pounds a year.

The supermarkets themselves face a significant cost. Tesco told Defra at the end of January that it would be introducing a testing regime that would cost it somewhere between £1 million and £2 million a year.

It also said that the hit to sales would be "a lot bigger than a million pounds". This includes the cost of the food withdrawn from sale - as well as the potential fall in sales for specific brands that have been contaminated. The supermarkets are likely to be able to cover this with compensation from their suppliers - paid for out of their insurance - but it remains to be seen whether the reputational cost is significant enough to make a difference to shopping habits over the long term.

Given that the processed beef industry is worth over £1 billion, there is a major sector which stands to lose from this scandal.

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