Retail giant Tesco has ditched its supplier and unveiled a programme of strict DNA testing after horsemeat was found in its beefburgers.
The company will also appoint a head of agriculture as it seeks to rebuild trust among farmers and consumers in the wake of the scandal.
It comes as Tesco representatives prepare to appear before a committee of MPs who have launched an inquiry into the “horseburger” scandal.
The cross-party House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee is taking evidence from retail bosses, government ministers and food safety officials on Wednesday (30 January).
In a statement, Tesco group technical director Tim Smith said the company had been “working hard to understand what happened” and prevent it happening again.
“Two weeks ago, on 16 January, we issued an unreserved apology to our customers because tests in Ireland found horse DNA in three Tesco frozen beefburger lines,” he said.
“We made a commitment to customers to investigate thoroughly and share the findings with them.
“We now understand – with as much certainty as possible – what happened.
The evidence tells us that our frozen burger supplier, Silvercrest, used meat in our products that did not come from the list of approved suppliers we gave them.
Nor was the meat from the UK or Ireland, despite our instruction that only beef from the UK and Ireland should be used in our frozen beefburgers.
Consequently we have decided not to take products from that supplier in future. We took that decision with regret, but the breach of trust is simply too great.
Mr Smith said Tesco had now ditched Silvercrest as a supplier. The company would also introduce DNA testing across its meat products.
“Ultimately Tesco is responsible for the food we sell, so it is not enough just to stop using the supplier,” he said.
“We have a well-equipped, expert technical team and world-class checks in place but we will not take anything for granted after this incident.
“It has shown that, in spite of our stringent tests, checks and controls there remained a small possibility that something could go wrong and it did.
“We want to stop it ever happening again, so we are taking action to reduce that possibility still further.
“To underpin the strong measures already in place, we will now introduce a comprehensive system of DNA testing across our meat products. This will identify any deviation from our high standards.”
The checks would set a new standard, said Mr Smith. “It will be a significant investment for Tesco, borne by Tesco.
“We want to leave customers in no doubt that we will do whatever it takes to ensure the quality of their food and that the food they buy is exactly what the label says it is.”
The food giant is also recruiting a new head of agriculture to join its food team.
Aimed at strengthening and developing Tesco’s relationship with farmers, the new employee will be responsible for our farm standards, including animal welfare, environment and food quality issues.
The head of agriculture will also liaise with Tesco producer groups and organisations such as the NFU and animal welfare bodies, says the job specification.