22 July 1997
Tesco defends quality of its meat
TESCO has defended the quality of its meat following a television programme last night which showed workers at one of its main suppliers packing meat after it had fallen on the floor.
The programme secretly taped staff at the St Merryn Meat plant in Bodmin re-packing meat after it had fallen on the floor, changing expiry dates on meat packs and marinating meat which had turned green. One worker boasted to the concealed camera that in the past he had shovelled mince from off the factory floor and put it back into the production line.
But Tesco defended the quality of its meat and St Merryns track record in a press statement today, saying bacteriological assessments of the Bodmin plant had shown high standards of cleanliness.
For instance records of bug counts demonstrate the floor is cleaner than the average dinner plate, the press release says.
The leading supermarket chain said it immediately withdrew purchases from the Bodmin plant four weeks ago when it learnt of investigations being carried out by current affairs programme World in Action.
St Merryn is the biggest supplier of meat to Tesco with up to eight plants. The Bodmin plant supplies Tesco with about 5% of its meat products. Tesco said that last year St Merryns packed more than 72 million packs of meat and received only eight complaints per every million pack.
However, the supermarket chain conceded that some codes of practice involving management controls appear to have been broken. St Merryn has closed the Bodmin plant and is undertaking a re-training programme.
We are seeking a full explanation from St Merryn. As a further reassurance to our customers, Tesco will place a full-time Tesco meat inspector in all our supplier fresh meat plants, the company said.
Tesco said St Merryn started supplying a new line of value added products (ie. BBQ spare ribs and other marinated meats) to Tesco three months ago. At the time, Tesco technologists worked closely with St Merryn to establish efficient procedures and good working practice.
Our audits were showing at that stage that while the plant was operating to good standards of food safety – there were management issues, the statement says.
Tesco said the plant was also under permanent inspection by the governments Meat Hygiene Service – who ranked it as one of the best in the country.
Also, prior to accepting the new line of products from the Bodmin plant, Tesco commissioned two independent audits, one by the most eminent independent food authority in Britain, the Campden and Chorleywood Food Research Association and one by Dr AM Johnston of the Royal Veterinary College – with neither group reporting a food safety risk.