Supply chain integrity stressed at BMPA conference

Meat processors need to work with their regulatory and retail partners to help protect the integrity of the supply chain, delegates to the British Meat Processors Association’s (BMPA) annual conference were told.

Both the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) Catherine Brown and Tesco’s Tim Smith reinforced the need for everyone in the chain to work together or risk losing consumers’ trust.

Smith, formerly of the FSA and now technical director at Tesco, said that anything that weakens the supply chain at any point can lead to fragility throughout. “Consumer confidence in the total supply chain is vital to all of us, and any fragility in that needs to be sorted as soon as possible,” he said.

Brown highlighted the importance of working together with regulators like the FSA and highlighted the export market as an example. She said processors needed to be aware that one company failing an inspection can lead to a whole country being blocked by an importer.

She said collaboration was key in the face of increasing demand and tightening supplies: “It’s going to get harder for food businesses and regulators to meet our responsibilities [to provide sustainable, safe food] and it’s critical that we need to find ways to work together.”

Smith warned the audience to not take its eye off food safety and said Tesco would continue to test for both containments and authenticity. Tesco would remain at the forefront of testing, he said, and that was being directed at the areas of greatest risk of fraud.

“Trust in retailers is quite high, surprisingly,” he said, and while Tesco was keen to use third-party public standards like Red Tractor to reinforce consumer trust, for most customers the Tesco brand was the guarantor of that assurance.

Opening the BMPA’s conference, new president Peter Mitchell said the horsemeat scandal should provide “fresh energy to look at how industry can protect itself against criminals and fraud. We’re ready to play a role in information and intelligence gathering”.

However, both Brown and Smith expressed concerns about food business operators willingness to share information with concerns over competitive issues. Smith appealed to the audience to find a way to share intelligence, saying it was important to fight fraud.

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