Asda boss' horsemeat shock

The boss of Asda today described his "shock" as revelations of the horsemeat contamination scandal broke, vowing to leave "no stone unturned" to address problems in the supply chain.

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Government horsemeat claim 'to be probed'

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson Credit: Dave Thompson/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has revealed that the Food Standards Agency is examining claims that Government ministers were warned in 2011 that horsemeat was illegally entering the human food chain.

He told Sky News: “I discussed this with the chief executive of the Food Standards Agency this morning and she is going to go back through the records and see exactly what was said at the time.

“What is absolutely clear right through this: it is absolutely illegal to present a horse to slaughter if it has taken drugs and the passport is not marked unfit for human consumption.

“All along we have had a system that keeps criminals out. If criminals are determined to break the system, then we have an issue of clear criminality which we will be taking up.”

Iceland chief: Local authorities to blame

Malcolm Walker has blamed local authorities for a drop in food quality. Credit: BBC's Andrew Marr

Iceland chief executive Malcolm Walker has attacked local authorities for driving down the quality of food as the horsemeat scandal continues.

Walker told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show: “Supermarkets shouldn’t be blamed. British supermarkets have got a fantastic reputation for food safety.

“If we’re going to blame somebody, let’s start with local authorities because there’s a whole side of this industry which is invisible, that’s the catering industry.

“Schools, hospitals, it’s a massive business for cheap food and local authorities award contracts based purely on one thing: price.”

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Consumers could pay the price for horsemeat scandal

The boss of one of the country's leading supermarkets warned today that consumers could end up paying the price for the horsemeat scandal, as ensuring food has the best safety guarantees means it can no longer be regarded as a "cheap commodity".

Mark Price, the managing director of Waitrose, said rising costs of rearing animals could mean that "somewhere along that long supply route, somebody has looked to cheat and take advantage of these circumstances either for their own personal greed or to keep a company afloat."

Waitrose has not been affected by the scandal, which Mr Price, writing in the Sunday Telegraph, puts down to its rigorous verification processes.

But he said that not every part of the food industry has been so diligent.

Horsemeat warnings 'ignored' by government in 2011

Government ministers were warned in 2011 that horsemeat was illegally entering the human food chain, it was claimed.

John Young, a former manager at the Meat Hygiene Service, now part of the Food Standards Agency (FSA), told the Sunday Times he helped draft a letter to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in April that year.

But he told the paper the letter to former minister Sir Jim Paice on behalf of Britain's largest horse meat exporter, High Peak Meat Exports, which warned that flesh with possible drug residue getting into food could blow up into a scandal, was ignored.

In the letter the company warned the Government that its passport scheme designed to stop meat containing the anti-inflammatory drug phenylbutazone, known as bute, getting into the food chain was not working, calling it a "debacle".

Poll: Women more likely to stop eating ready meals because of horsemeat scandal

New ComRes opinion poll statistics for The Independent on Sunday and Sunday Mirror have revealed that women are more likely than men to stop eating ready meals due to the horsemeat scandal.

Here is a breakdown of the statistics:

  • I have stopped eating meat ready meals as a result of the reports of horsemeat in British food:
  • Women (35%) are more likely than men (27%) to say they have stopped eating ready meals.
  • Agree: 31% Disagree: 58%
  • I have stopped eating meat altogether as a result of the reports of horsemeat in British food:
  • Agree: 7% Disagree: 87%

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31% stop eating ready meals over horsemeat scandal

As part of a survey ComRes for the Independent on Sunday and the Sunday Mirror, people were asked for their responses to questions on the horsemeat scandal.

They answered:

  • I have stopped eating meat ready meals as a result of the reports of horsemeat in British food - Agree: 31% Disagree: 58%. Women (35%) are more likely than men (27%).
  • The Government has responded well to the findings of horsemeat in ready meals - Agree: 44% Disagree: 30%.
  • All meat imports should be banned until we can be sure of their origin - Agree: 53% Disagree: 33%.

Farmers urge customers to buy British in national ads

Ads placed in National papers by the National Farmers Union. Credit: ITV News

In the midst of the horsemeat scandal, British farmers took the opportunity to promote their home-grown produce by placing half-page adverts in 10 national newspapers.

The National Farmers Union (NFU) adverts read: "Quality assured," “Great British farmers produce Great British food” and said they “lead the way in high standards for fresh food.”

The NFU also carried the Twitter hashtag #buybritish in a bid to promote the campaign online.

Tesco: 'Priority' is completing horsemeat testing

Tesco's chief executive Philip Clarke has sent an email entitled "food concerns our responsibility and our promise" to its customers. Part of the message reads:

Our priority right now is to complete our testing programme as quickly and thoroughly as possible, because people need to have confidence in all Tesco products.

In addition, we are looking in great detail at every aspect of how products are sold in Tesco and at how our relationships with our suppliers become more transparent and collaborative.

Where changes are needed, we'll make sure they are made. And let me be clear that this doesn't mean more expensive food - it just means doing things the right way, and accepting nothing less than the highest possible standards in the supply chain.

My absolute focus is on giving our customers complete confidence that every single product on sale in Tesco is of the highest quality and contains exactly what it says on the pack. It's what you expect of us, and it's what we demand of ourselves.

– Tesco chief executive Philip Clarke

'We'll never know' how many people eat horsemeat

It is unlikely the exact number of people in the UK who have unwittingly eaten horsemeat will ever be known, the chief executive of the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has conceded.

Catherine Brown said that testing was the right way to address the issue, and said the focus would be on areas of higher risk.

But she admitted that how many people who had unknowingly eaten horse meat was likely to be impossible to ascertain.

I don't think that we ever will (know how many), because these tests are a snapshot, so even where we find things it is very hard to work out how long, what number of batches, so I think it is unlikely that we will ever know that. It is shocking.

– Catherine Brown talking to the BBC

Her comments came as the head of a major UK supermarket chain insisted that the horse meat scandal was not "the tip of an iceberg".

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