Call for investigation into supermarket pressure on horsemeat scandal


  In the wake of the horsemeat mislabelling scandal an SNP MSP is today calling for an investigation by the new Supermarket Ombudsman into the pressure put on the meat processing sector by supermarkets.
Despite the creation of the role having first been recommended in 2008, the appointment of the UK’s first ‘Groceries Code Adjudicator’ – or Supermarket Ombudsman as the role is more commonly referred to – was only announced in recent weeks with the appointment of Christine Tacon.

She will start work once the appropriate legislation clears the final stages of scrutiny at Westminster in coming days.

SNP MSP Angus MacDonald who sits on the Rural Affairs and Environment committee has written to Ms Tacon calling on her to make her top priority on taking up her role an investigation into the relationship between supermarkets and the meat processing sector and what role any pressure to cut costs had in leading to the horsemeat mislabelling scandal.

Commenting, Mr MacDonald said:

“The appointment of a Supermarket Ombudsman has been a long delayed one, but there will be relief from farmers, producers and consumers that progress has at last been made.

“In the wake of the appalling horsemeat mislabelling scandal of recent weeks, I think there is an overwhelming case for an investigation into any pressure to cut costs that supermarkets placed on meat processors to be Christine Tacon’s first order of business.

“There is understandable fury amongst the public about what has been allowed to happen, but more than anything else people want answers on how the mislabelling of meat products could have been allowed to happen on such a scale.

“People want answers and the first task of the new Supermarket Ombudsman should be to do her bit to ensure that they get them. That is the only way that lessons from this sorry state of affairs will be learnt and changes can be made to prevent them occurring again.

“I have written to Christine Tacon to strongly encourage her to make such an investigation her top priority and I hope that she will heed these calls and give people the answers they need on what pressure supermarkets were placing on the meat processing sector.”

The horsemeat scandal has led to products being withdrawn from shelves by several supermarket chains.  It has also led to an increase in business for local butchers as many customers seek out locally sourced produce.

An independent YouGov poll commissioned by Quality Meat Scotland revealed 47% of Scottish consumers were more interested in local beef with trust in the Scotch Beef brand increasing.

MEANWHILE, a food watchdog has claimed that a third of restaurants in Scotland are passing off cheap beef for lamb in curries.  A study by the Scottish Food Enforcement Liaison Committee found that 46 unnamed restauraunts out of 129 tested had cheap cuts of beef in curry dishes, despite the menu describing the dish as lamb.

The report said: “The results confirm that significant lamb-based curries offered for sale in Indian and other similar-style restaurants and takeaways were falsely described as they contained either no lamb or a mixture of lamb and meat.

“A significant minority of food business operators appear to be intentionally mis-describing food.”