GUEST ARTICLE on food fraud

Can customers have meat traceability and cheap prices after horsemeat?

By Billy Sexton

- Last updated on GMT

Billy Sexton discusses traceability and responsibility in potential food fraud cases
Billy Sexton discusses traceability and responsibility in potential food fraud cases

Related tags: Meat

Following the horsemeat scandal in early 2013, the British food industry and customers have undoubtedly become slightly more obsessed with the traceability of food.

The National Pigs Association (NPA) have even gone as far to claim that pork could form the ‘foundations for the next food scandal​’ in light of some British supermarkets performing a drastic u-turn on their decision to shorten supply chains and stock more British produce.

The return to European suppliers means that 10,000 British pigs a week are replaced on shop shelves.

Meat traceability

With the NPA arguing that sourcing swine from Europe will have an effect on the traceability of meat, we must ask what it is that consumers really want?

As most are aware, the current economic climate hasn’t been ideal since 2008 and it makes sense for consumers to opt for a cheaper option – if this happens to be European pork that has no noticeably different taste but is cheaper than British produce, then it is understandable why customers refuse to ‘Buy British.’

However, the NPA are suggesting that there is less traceability with continental meat. Couple this with the public reaction to the horsemeat scandal and the following question emerges: can customers have both guaranteed meat traceability and cheap prices?

The issue of traceability is also a problem for catering businesses, particularly those with food management systems such as the ISO 22000 in place.

If supplied with European meat and adding extra stages to supply chains, catering businesses will find it increasingly difficult to follow through with their ‘farm to fork’ traceability promises.

Greedy supermarkets

Two factors stand in the way of consumers being able to purchase traceable food for competitive prices – honesty and greedy supermarkets.

Reaction to the horsemeat scandal involved some not being concerned that horsemeat was used, but rather the fact that they had been lied to.

If a beef burger isn’t a beef burger, then don’t market it as a beef burger. If a product was marketed as a meat burger, customers aren’t being lied to and traceability is still possible.

Secondly, supermarkets have returned to European suppliers to increase profit margins.

There has been no mention that supermarkets were making a loss by selling British meat, they were simply not making ‘enough’ profit.

Supermarkets should consider where their priorities lie – with the customers, or with fat cat shareholders looking to line their pockets?

Related topics: Food Safety & Quality

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