The British pork industry has moved to reassure consumers that a test result indicating that a British-labelled Tesco pork chop was very unlikely to be of British origin was an isolated incident.
Isotope tests were carried out by Bpex, the English pork sector body, in conjunction with BBC Radio 4’s You & Yours and Farming Today programmes.
The tests revealed there was a probability of less than 1% that the pork had come from a British farm and the test profile was more typical of pork from one of two other countries, with Farming Today reporting it might be Dutch.
The pork chops were supplied to Tesco by pork giant Cranswick, whose records in turn traced it back to its approved supplier, F A Gill.
“The evidence in this particular instance points to the fact that this was just an isolated case. This is not going to happen on a regular basis”
Mick Sloyan, Bpex
This morning, Bpex chief executive Mick Sloyan told Farming Today: “The evidence in this particular instance points to the fact that this was just an isolated case. This is not going to happen on a regular basis. I think we’ve shown that this technology works and it provides an extra level of reassurance for consumers in the traceability systems that we adopt.”
The introduction of isotope testing could only add integrity and credibility to the industry’s systems and to the Red Tractor logo, he added.
Tesco said that when it specified it wanted British pork, it expected to be supplied with British pork and had spoken to Cranswick to make clear that any mistake was unacceptable. “Further testing on more products has confirmed the country of origin is correct in all cases,” a spokeswoman said.
Cranswick added that it was “surprised and disappointed” at the Isotope test result.
The Co-operative Group has released further details on its new Loved By Us range, which is hitting shelves this month, including chilled ready meals and a switch to 100% British meat and poultry.
It had followed Bpex guidelines and conducted a full traceability audit since the test result, and further tests on other pork products had all shown the pork was correctly labelled. “As a result of our investigations, we believe this is an isolated error and we are taking steps to ensure this does not happen again,” a spokesman said.
F A Gill – one of a number of pork suppliers to Cranswick – denied that the pork tested came from its supply as it did not deal in Dutch meat.
It said that pork it supplied to Cranswick on 5 June 2013 came from four certified farm-assured pig producers in Britain and it was not aware and had not been challenged that the “rogue” pork came from its supply.
“We are rigorously audited by our suppliers’ customers, including Tesco and Cranswick, on a regular basis and based on recent audits, there is no evidence connecting F A Gill with any non-British pork,” said a spokeswoman.
Red Tractor CEO David Clarke said that after “thorough follow-up and scrutiny of the systems in this particular supply chain”, it was satisfied that it was an isolated case. “We are also sure that it was caused by human error; this was not a case of deliberate mislabelling or fraud.”
He added that many previous tests had proven that labels were correct.
“Is this a one-off mistake? Is this something that is perhaps a more fundamental problem in the industry?”
Julia Glotz, The Grocer
“Of course we expect some tests, hopefully very few, to show unexpected results or there would be no point in doing them. But the use of all the technologies available can only make the integrity of our systems stronger.”
The Tesco spokeswoman added that it had itself trialled isotope testing and was talking to Bpex about how it could develop it alongside its existing tests, “to bring even more rigour to our food testing programme”.
“It’s embarrassing for Tesco because of course Tesco was quite extensively exposed to the horsemeat scandal as well,” The Grocer’s Julia Glotz told Farming Today. “For Cranswick it’s acutely embarrassing because they have a superb reputation and they are known for operating at the premium end of the market.
“Of course it raises the question immediately of how much else is out there? Is this a one-off mistake? Is this something that is perhaps a more fundamental problem in the industry?”
You can listen to Julia’s views on the test results and what it means for British meat industry in the wake of ‘horsegate’ on this morning’s Farming Today programme.