Tesco is a food retailer, first and foremost: providing safe, nutritious food is the core of what we do.
We faced a critical issue when the Irish Food Safety Authority called us in on Tuesday afternoon to tell us that batches from three frozen beefburger lines had tested positive for horse meat.
I cannot repeat enough: this is not a safety issue. The food safety authorities in London and Dublin have confirmed that horse meat poses no health risk.
However as a food retailer, customers must have confidence in the products we offer. Trust is essential. As a customer, you need to know that the food you buy and consume is what it says it is.
Trust is hard won and easily lost. Our customers trust us that, if something goes wrong, Tesco will go above and beyond what is merely necessary to look after customers and will do the right thing, immediately and wholeheartedly.
We did not hesitate to withdraw the products identified as containing horsemeat. Nor did we hesitate withdrawing all the products made by the same producer – 26 frozen burger lines. We acted immediately and we told our customers about it through all the channels we could – in stores, on email, on social media, on television, in the news and, in tomorrow’s papers, with a full page advertisement.
It will never be comfortable telling as many people as we can that our products have fallen short, that we are investigating how that happened and will show them what we find. It is not comfortable, but it is absolutely necessary. We don't help anyone by hiding and hoping.
If some of our customers are angry, so are we. We expect our suppliers to deliver to a standard, and to meet basic food traceability rules. But our customers shop with Tesco, not our suppliers, so you won’t find us hiding behind suppliers. It’s our job to ensure they are meeting our high standards. The first step to rebuilding trust is honesty and transparency, and that is why we will continue to tell our customers everything we know and everything we are doing to stop anything like this happening again.