The Debate: As the horse meat scandal continues, is it fair to lambast retailers for their role in the crisis?

Paul Huck

The horse meat scandal is evidence of the weaknesses within supply chains of major food retailers. Businesses have still not shown that they are doing everything in their power to prevent such scandals in the future. The golden rule – which many retailers have not abided by – is to know your suppliers. As commerce becomes ever more international, advanced due diligence of suppliers is vital. Constant feedback and assessment must be built into trade contracts, which is still not happening across the board. Suppliers should also be compelled to sign up to the same standards as a retailer, and retailers need to set up whistleblowing provisions. Members across the supply chain must be able to report incidents – including those of bribery and corruption. These tighter processes would have helped to avoid this scandal, and would have protected the reputation of food retailers.

Paul Huck is a director at Zolfo Cooper.

Helen Dickinson

Retailers have taken decisive action to deal with fallout of the horse meat scandal, and worked around the clock to gather meaningful data quickly. We have conducted more than a thousand tests in just three weeks. And these have shown that only five own-brand products tested above the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) threshold – those are all products that we already knew about, and they were withdrawn. Two thirds of the processed beef products we set out to test have now been tested; but testing will continue, and more results will be published. We already operate rigorous auditing to ensure confidence in what retailers buy from suppliers, but this may not always pick up deliberate fraud. These events have shown the need for better information sharing across Europe. We will work with the FSA, government and supply chains to improve intelligence and systems.

Helen Dickinson is director general of the British Retail Consortium.