Meat and fish suppliers have blasted the supermarkets following revelations of serious breaches of hygiene rules in two stores.

Consumers who watched the BBC's Whistleblower exposé of lax standards would be put off buying food at deli counters in stores, they warned. Meanwhile, industry figures said it could hit sales, despite assurances from Tesco and Sainsbury's that such breaches were not commonplace.

"This was an eye-opener and should be a wake-up call to retailers," said a spokesman for the Meat and Livestock Commission. "As consumers we rely on the supermarkets as guardians of food safety. It could damage consumer confidence ."

The extent of any consumer backlash would depend on how long the issue stayed in the public eye, he said.

Quality Meat Scotland also expressed shock over the footage. Industry development manager Andy McGowan said: "It's concerning to see such breaches in food safety practices and it is important they act on the assurances they have given to sort out the problems.

"The long-term sustainability of the red meat industry in Scotland depends on retaining consumer confidence in our high standards throughout the chain."

One industry insider said he expected consumers to turn to pre-packed product that hadn't been through the hands of counter staff. Others predicted that the hygiene breaches could boost sales at independent butchers, delis and farmers' markets, where product was perceived to be fresher.

"Confidence in farm shops and farmers' markets has never been higher," said Rita Exner, managing agent at the National Farmers Retail and Markets Association.

Norman Bagley, policy director at the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers, said it also raised questions about why standards were stricter in abattoirs than in food preparation.

"The further down the chain you go, the higher the risk, but they're a fraction of the controls. You have to question how well staffed local authorities' environmental health departments really are."