Speaking at the 2013 City Food Lecture in London, Bulcke said the discovery of horsemeat in food was a widespread fraud committed by a few across the whole of Europe, and many consumers, and industry, felt mislead.
“This definitely should not happen, it’s unforgivable and we have let consumers down. The success of the food industry, and Nestlé, is built on trust and we should all work hard not to lose it.”
He said the food industry had played a major role in the development of the global society and it had never been safer, but that wasn’t the perception and, once again, the sector was facing serious trust issues because of the actions of a minority. “This is not food safety, it’s a trust issue; it’s not delivering what the label says. We have increased our standards and testing over the whole supply chain, but perception is often the reality for consumers. Industry is again seen as untrustworthy.”
He said the industry needed to pull together to do a “good and decisive job” to regain that trust.
Nestlé was one of the latest European food businesses to be pulled into the horsemeat scandal, which continues to spread across the Continent. The company announced last week that it was withdrawing beef pasta meals from supermarkets in Italy, France and Spain after they were found to contain horsemeat. It said that beef used in the products had been supplied by German company HJ Schypke.
Nestlé later recalled further products from Spanish supermarkets and announced that it was dropping Spanish supplier Servocar “after it became clear that the firm has supplied beef that contains horse DNA”.
The IKEA Group has also been forced to recall meat products this week after testing by the Czech Republic’s veterinary office found horse DNA in a batch of IKEA beef and pork meatballs. IKEA said its own tests on meatballs had come back negative for horse DNA, but that it was putting a sale stop on meatballs from a Swedish supplier as a precautionary measure.
Call for COOL
Ministers from all 27 European Member States met to discuss the widening horsemeat scandal at the EU Agriculture Council meeting in Brussels on Monday (25 February).
The press office of the Council said discussions centred around country-of-origin labelling (COOL) and an extension of European-wide testing of meat products. “Several delegations called for a labelling of the origin of meat entering in the composition of processed meat products,” it said.
“In addition, several member states pointed out that the report on the impact assessment of labelling the origin of meat in processed food, the publication of which was scheduled for December this year, should be published before or after summer.”