Bad Taste: When Manufacturers Horse Around
The US press is now reporting a story that has been high profile in the UK for a few weeks now: horse meat in consumer food labeled as beef. Being a Brit myself, let me shed some light as to why this is so upsetting for us. We think of horses in the same we think of Rover the dog or Whiskers the cat—a large undomesticated pet. Not to say you would have one running around the house because it would require one huge litter tray. But, for us eating horse meat would be the same as having “Rover casserole” or “Whiskers stew”—most horrific.
Here’s what happened: A supplier to Findus Frozen Foods was accused of substituting horse meat for beef in products that ended up in Findus Lasagna Frozen Food. Was the horse meat harmful to the consumer? Not really. Was it harmful to the Findus brand? Oh, heck yes! They published a public apology in the national press, and since the story broke, their parent company’s stock price has seen a steady decline. And, this may just be the tip of the iceberg, as the FSA (Food Standards Administration) is now investigating multiple companies for similar issues.
Findus correctly sited one of the issues contributing to this problem was that the supply chain had become “far too complex.” In a competitive world of tight margins, firms are now sourcing ingredients from multiple suppliers in multiple countries. Today manufacturers still need to be vigilant to avoid harming consumers, or as in this case harming their own brand credibility.
For me, I treat this as “All Things Food Safety.” Our mantra is “Do No Harm,” and part of that is helping manufacturers have the systems in place to ensure supplier accountability as well as retailer compliance for quality and safety of products manufactured. At the end of the day its my family and your family that could be harmed, so its better to help the industry improve for all our sakes!!