Co-op boss apologises to members over horsemeat discovery

An apology has been sent to more than a million members of The Co-operative by the company’s group chief executive Peter Marks.

The members were emailed an apology by Marks after horsemeat DNA was found in "beef" products sold by the supermarket group. On behalf of the company, Marks explained how The Co-op was going to attempt to restore the trust of its customers, following the contamination issues discovered across the UK and Europe.

He said he felt The Co-op had let consumers down and the discovery of horsemeat in two of its products had caused consumers to "question the trust that you can place in us as a food retailer". Marks also said food retailers must accept the ultimate accountability for the products they sell.

"We cannot blame the government or the regulators, or even our suppliers. At the end of the day, the buck stops here," he said.

Meanwhile, food businesses across the UK carried out DNA testing on their processed beef products and Marks said he was pleased to report that the first 76 (out of 102) own-brand products tested, came back negative for horsemeat contamination. However, he said the tests were still ongoing and he expected more results to be available at the end of this week.

The Co-op was one of the supermarkets to remove frozen beef burgers, which were found to contain horsemeat. The burgers had been supplied by Silvercrest Foods, Co Monaghan in Ireland. Marks explained The Co-op had specified to suppliers that all their frozen beef burgers "should be 100% British".

He added: "As a result we have taken the decision to delist Silvercrest as a supplier. In addition, we are tightening our quality checks to ensure our products meet the high specifications that we set on behalf of our customers."

In light of the issues, Marks said The Co-op was going to review the whole of its meat supply chain and put in place an "enhanced process with greater robustness and transparency", to ensure provenance knowledge.

"In fact, our testing across all our food products is to be stepped up. To achieve this we will have to carry out more stringent checks, However, I can assure you that any additional cost will not be passed on to you. We do not expect our customers to pay for this necessary rigour," he added.

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