Iceland sparks row with councils over horsemeat scandal

People want to know what is in their meat and where it came from. Photo: ITV News

The boss of Iceland has blamed local councils for driving down food standards and contributing to the horsemeat scandal.

Today, allegations that the government knew horsemeat entered the food chain as far back as 2011 have emerged, and the government says it is investigating.

Meanwhile, farmers' markets are reporting a hike in sales, as shoppers increasingly want to know where their meat has come from.

Earlier today, Malcolm Walker, chief executive of Iceland, said retailers are not to blame for the horsemeat scandal, as food prices are being driven down by local authorities who operate an "invisible market" catering to schools, care homes and hospitals.

He said the horsemeat scandal has been "hyped out of all proportion".

Cheap food doesn't come from supermarkets - it is driven by local authorities trying to get their prices down.

– Chief executive of Iceland Malcolm Walker

Malcolm Walker, chief executive of Iceland:

But the Local Government Association (LGA) responded to the criticism. Mehboob Khan, chairman of the LGA's safer communities board and leader of Kirklees Council, said the blame lay firmly with manufacturers, suppliers and retailers:

Lasagne has been taken from some supermarket shelves. Credit: ITV News

The chief executive of Iceland seems a little confused. The law is 100% clear that it is the responsibility of the manufacturer, supplier and retailer to make sure the product they sell us is what they say it is. There has been a major supply chain failure.

– Mehboob Khan, chairman of the LGA's safer communities board
The horsemeat scandal now involves multiple meat products. Credit: ITV News

Environment secretary Owen Paterson called for a Europe-wide overhaul of food testing in the wake of the horsemeat scandal.

The whole problem we have is that the system... which is laid down from above trusts the paperwork. So it trusts that the pallet conforms to the piece of paper. No-one checks what is on the pallet often enough, no-one checks what is in production often enough, no-one checks the finished product often enough.

– Environment secretary Owen Paterson

Mr Paterson told Sky News that the current system relies too heavily on trusting paperwork that comes with meat shipments.