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Tesco has warned the government that moves to provide more transparency to customers in the wake of the horsemeat scandal could be undermined by the lack of a level playing field with smaller retailers and fast food outlets.

Giving evidence to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee for its inquiry into food security and food waste, Tesco group quality director Tim Smith called on ministers to launch a joined-up UK food plan, which he said would “unblock customer confusion” over the provenance of food.

Smith claimed Tesco, which was rocked by Horsegate last January, had since established itself as having the “gold standard” on labelling and testing procedures.

But the former FSA CEO warned: “Does it mean what it says on the label in every retailer? Does it mean that if I go to a fast food restaurant that its food is produced to the same standard of sustainability and the same food standards?”