Supply chain transparency is a sales issue

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“We will open up our supply chain and give you more information than any retailer has before to enable you to make informed choices about the food you buy for your family.”

That’s the promise Tesco chief Philip Clarke made to customers last week in the wake of the horsemeat scandal that has engulfed so much of the UK food industry.

Tesco is putting in place a system of DNA testing and is building a web site to enable customers to see the progress it is making with its testing programme.

“We are looking in great detail at every aspect of how products are sold in Tesco and at how our relationships with our suppliers become more transparent and collaborative,” said Clarke.

Tesco is not the only retailer to be focusing hard on its supply chain. Speaking to BBC News, Peter Marks, chief executive of the Co-operative Group, said: “We want to say a big apology. Food retailers can’t duck this. We can’t blame the government, we can’t blame the regulator – the FSA – we can’t blame our suppliers. When we sell products in our shops it’s our responsibility.”

The Co-operative plans to improve the rigour of its testing and take a closer look at its supply chain to ensure it is transparent.

Waitrose has not found horse in any of its products but it found pork in one beef product which was not produced by Dovecote Park, its dedicated supplier. As a result, it is to build its own capability to produce a range of frozen meat products.

These moves represent a significant shift in attitudes towards the supply chain and what information customers should be given. That has to be a positive move and one that will have significant benefits in the long run.

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