CATERERS HAVE again come under fire for their part in the horse meat scandal.
Lord Haskins, the former boss at Northern Foods, said caterers had “pretty haphazard” systems in place to manage their supply chains.
Speaking at the “Assuring the Integrity of the Food Chain” conference, organised by the Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA), Haskins suggested that the scandal had resulted from the pressure “everyone” was under to keep prices low. “The behaviour of buyers may have had an impact on the way suppliers acted,” he said, adding that supermarkets buyers should have “smelt a rat, or a horse” given the prices at which some beef products were being bought and sold.
However, he went on to suggest that there also needed to be a closer look at the catering sector, an area where pressures on price can be even greater.
“I always laugh at farmers who complain about the supermarkets; the pressure on price in catering is even more intense and that [leads] to cutting corners,” he claimed. “People are more choosy about what they buy in supermarkets than when they eat in a fish and chip shop.”
Haskins comments echo those made by the boss of Iceland in February. Malcolm Walker blamed the “invisible” catering sector for driving down food quality and using “back street manufacturers”.
Some politicians also criticised the reaction of the foodservice sector to the horse meat crisis. While the retailers reacted with “speed” following the discoveries of horse and pork meat in beef products earlier this year, shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh said she was “disappointed” that the hospitality and catering sector has not been so candid.
- A full report from the FERA conference will be available in May’s Footprint magazine