Product safety & quality

Product Safety & Quality

Last updated: 4 January 2021

A joined up approach

Tesco customers expect us to only sell products made to the highest quality and that are responsibly sourced. They trust us to ensure that all our products are safe and comply with all the applicable laws and regulations.

Within Tesco we have a number of highly skilled teams and colleagues across the globe that are dedicated to ensuring our customer expectations are not only met but exceeded. They manage the quality of products from the original product concept right through to our stores and customers.

Although this page is based on our UK business, a similar approach is taken across our international markets whilst ensuring all legal and cultural differences are acknowledged and catered for.

Product Development

By understanding customers, their needs and wider market trends, our expert team of developers work hard to bring great quality, innovative and good value products to the market.

Through understanding customers and their needs, product and market trends our expert team of developers work hard to bring great quality, innovative and value for money products to the market; our dedicated team of food researchers and chefs constantly review food trends and bring new food ideas to life to meet those customer needs.

We have an extensive programme of new product development; across food we launched over 1,300 lines in 2019. We also have a product improvement programme for current products for quality, health, helpfulness and responsible sourcing with almost 3,000 redeveloped.

We believe it is essential for colleagues to understand our products so they can have meaningful conversations with customers, and regular share our product innovation with colleagues with 10,000 visits to one of our sampling events in Heart in 2019.

Working with our other teams in the business (Buying, Technical and Brand) and our supplier partners, our Development Team ensure Own Brand products are great quality but also meet legal and safety requirements. This means that we regularly review products both before and after launch. For example, all of our new general merchandise seasonal ranges go through a combination of customer panels, benchmarking, user trials and safety testing before production began. In food, regular benchmarking, market reviews and customer panels help to inform our product improvement programme.

Not only do we want to develop innovative products that customers want, we also have teams dedicated to ensuring the products developed are the best they possibly can be. A good example of this is the work our Nutrition Team does to support the food business.

The Nutrition Team support across a wide number of both business functions and external stakeholders to promote and ensure adherence to the overall Tesco health agenda for both customers and colleagues. They achieve this by:

  • Supporting our Technical and Development Teams create food and drinks which are of excellent quality, comprising of ingredients customers expect and challenging the levels of salt, fat, sugar and calories where appropriate. More information on this can be found on our website.
  • Engaging with a wider external network of nutrition and health professionals within the food industry, health charities (Diabetes UK, British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research, Anaphylaxis UK, Coeliac UK) and government (Public Health England and Department of Health).
  • Actively engaging as members of industry working groups such as the Consumer Goods Forum and IGD’s Industry Nutrition Strategy Group with the focus of encouraging the food industry to improve diets and health.
  • Supporting wider health activities around the business such as ensuring recipes meet our expectation of healthy and that we instil accurate dietary messages through our health campaigns for customer and colleagues.
  • Driving action to promote health to all our customers from babies, with our new nutritious baby food range, to those with specific dietary needs.
  • Helping to harness technology to guide healthier diets. Our online grocery website has a wide variety of search filters to help customers select products suited for dietary needs, including low salt, high fibre, vegan, low sugar. We help ensure that the correct criteria is used for these filters and which align with customers’ expectations.

Labelling and Packaging

Labelling and packaging is essential to communicate all the necessary information to our customers so they can make informed choices on the products they are purchasing. For example, in our food business the declaration of ingredients and allergens is a primary focus.

\Our Labelling Team support a wide number of business functions and external stakeholders to ensure the labelling information we provide customers is always honest and fair, and does not mislead. They achieve this by:

  • Supporting our Technical Teams to ensure our labelling information complies with our labelling policies, and working with the Brand and Design teams to ensure new brands comply with all relevant labelling legislation.
  • Engaging with a wider external network of labelling professionals within the food industry and government to monitor food labelling legislation and promote best practice.
  • Actively engaging as members of industry working groups to ensure consistent implementation of food labelling law.

In order to ensure our product labels are legal, every artwork is reviewed and approved before sending to the supplier for production. In 2019 we signed off 9550 packaging artworks alone for the food business.

The materials used in our packaging is also a primary focus of Tesco. In recent months there has been a great deal of public interest in the reduction of the use of plastics in product packaging and we have made a commitment reduce the amount used across our whole business.

Supplier Audit Programme

Not only do we take great care in developing the right products for our customers but we take great pride in the factories that manufacture them for us. Tesco has developed industry leading manufacturing standards that cover all the Own Brand products we sell and we work tirelessly with our suppliers to ensure they are complied with. The standards are reviewed on a regular basis to ensure all industry and legislative advancements are included.

We also run a bespoke due diligence audit programme that offers documented evidence of compliance to our standards and a way to monitor continual improvement. We work with external audit partners to complete the audit. Across all product areas we have a team of over 100 external auditors that are all experts within various industries. For example, our food auditors have one or more of 24 bespoke competencies from meat and dairy to thermal processing; within our non-food audit team we have cosmetics, electrical, engineering and toy experts; within our clothing audit team we have auditors that have extensive backgrounds in both the textiles and footwear industries.

Before a site can begin manufacturing Tesco products they must first show us they have both the capacity and capability to produce safe, legal and quality products. This is achieved through the site working with our Technical Teams to ensure all relevant processes and controls are in place and passing an approval audit. A site must attain an acceptable grade against all of the requirements within the relevant Tesco Standard. In 2019 we completed 371 approval audits with 360 of these going on to become Tesco suppliers.

After a site is approved we ensure ongoing compliance through our maintenance audit programme. For the majority of sites the audit occurs on an annual basis and for sites supplying Tesco UK these audits are either fully unannounced or semi announced depending on global location. In 2019 we have completed nearly 2000 maintenance audits across our global supplier base supplying both our UK and International stores with 75% achieving between a satisfactory and excellent score.

It is not only our direct suppliers that we audit. At Tesco we understand the complexity and associated risks within entire supply chains. Therefore we’re starting long term plans to audit, based on risk, throughout our supply chains:

  • Fresh produce - we work in collaboration with Global Gap ( and Red Tractor to perform Nurture programme audits at our grower farms focussing on the responsible use of pesticides in fresh produce farming. In 2019 we had 11,700 Nurture certified growers.
  • Meat – In 2019 we conducted over 850 animal welfare and meat traceability audits per year. More information can be found on our website.

F&F clothing – we have streamlined supply chains and identified all of the packaging, tannery and mill sites.

More information on the work our Responsible Sourcing Team does with suppliers to protect the environment and ensure human rights are respected can be found on our website.

Testing Programme

We have well-established and comprehensive food safety management systems throughout Tesco and every day we monitor and check the quality and safety of our food. We have a routine testing programme through which Tesco products are regularly tested by independent expert laboratories to make sure that they are safe, legal and meet our exacting quality specifications. In 2019 we completed testing on the following number of samples across a variety of food products:

  • Microbiological testing: 5930 samples
  • Chemical (Nutrition) testing: 6664 samples
  • Authenticity & Contaminants testing: 1934 samples

All non-food products are subjected to a pre-shipment inspection at the factory by either a Tesco colleague, trained factory employee or an approved 3rd party. These inspections include ensuring the product is of the expected quality level as well as safety and legality checks.

Food Safety in our Stores

We not only take care of our product during manufacture but develop robust product safety policies, training and store standards to ensure the safety, legality and quality of products is maintained right through to the customer’s home.

Tesco has an experienced Operational Risk Team who support our stores in ensuring our customers have a good shopping experience, in a safe and compliant environment. In the UK alone, there are a team of 13 field based Environmental Health Experts, whose day to day role takes them throughout the country to support with environmental or food safety issues in our stores. Their roles include collaborating with local authority regulatory officers, ensuring the legality of our food products and processes, driving improvements to store standards and coaching our retail leaders on safe and legal compliance.

All store colleagues are trained in food safety and hygiene and, depending on their role, receive further training and refresher training on a scheduled plan. For example, colleagues who work in the fresh foods and produce departments will also have product training to help them understand the great quality of our products and how to look after them. Store colleagues then put this training into practice on a daily basis ensuring all safety and legality checks are completed.

The store support teams also provide some 'What Good Looks Like guides' for colleagues, to help them look after the products and feel confident in answering customer queries. Colleagues have a 'Would I Buy It' assessment to ensure the quality of the product meets the customer expectations while they are in the care of the store.

To date:

  • Over 10,000 store colleagues have completed Gold Food Safety Training
  • Over 93,000 have completed Legal One Training - This training includes modules on Health & Safety, Age Restricted Sales, Fire Safety and Being Responsible in Retail
  • Over 81,000 have completed the Legal Two Training – This training includes all of the above plus a module on Food Safety

Our store standards are very important to us and we have a store audit programme to support the consistent standard of operations expected by our customers and drive continuous improvement. We use an independent third party to audit our stores against an internal set of requirements.

As part of the continuous drive for transparency with our customers we are committed to displaying all of our store Food Hygiene Ratings. We are the leading supermarket in the display of Food Hygiene Rating scores with all UK stores proudly displaying their rating results since August 2014.

Withdrawals and Recalls

Although we work tirelessly to ensure the safety, legality and quality of our product there are times when a product needs to be withdrawn from sale or potentially recalled. The reason for a product to be withdrawn from sale or recalled are numerous and we are always actively working with suppliers and stores to reduce the number of occurrences we have. Since 2015 we have seen an almost 50% drop in the number of products we have had to withdraw from our stores. However, when a withdrawal or recall does need to be actioned, we work with all relevant authorities and more widely in the industry to ensure that we do the right thing for our customers.

Details of products which are being recalled as precaution for safety reasons are communicated to stores and our customers We publish recall information on our Grocery Home Shopping website ( and on social media (Facebook and Twitter) to ensure our customers are aware and are able to return the product to us. We also communicate recalls through the Food Standards Agency or other stakeholders. All product incidents are then reviewed and learnings fed into the product development process, closing the loop and ensuring we continually manage, monitor and improve the delivery of safe, legal and quality products to our customers.