Horsemeat scandal: How can foodservice operators avoid the fallout?

By Emma Eversham

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Restaurant, Management

How can foodservice operators serving non-affected meat ensure they aren't affected by the fallout of the horsemeat scandal?
How can foodservice operators serving non-affected meat ensure they aren't affected by the fallout of the horsemeat scandal?
With the Government currently investigating how horsemeat has made it into processed beef products, restaurant, hotel and pub owners are being urged to take extra steps to know the provenance of the produce they are using to avoid being embroiled in future scandals.

At a meeting with retailers and food distributors yesterday to deliver a plan of action for dealing with the contamination problem, Farming Minister David Heath said the current situation was ‘totally unacceptable’ and told retailers, caterers and other food business operators to be ‘completely open with their customers’ about the situation.  

So far, the hospitality sector has been less affected than retail, but there have been operators such as Whitbread​ and The Restaurant Group who have changed burger suppliers as a precaution.

Yesterday, a phone survey of 1,000 adults by Usurv found that 41 per cent would visit fast food restaurants less often as a result of the horsemeat scandal with 35 per cent saying they would eat less burgers even in unaffected businesses.

“The impact of this scandal is far reaching and it looks like even those who have always served 100 per cent beef are not going to escape the impact,” said Usurv director Guy Potter. 

Know your supplier

With consumers showing a lack of trust in anyone selling processed meat, what can foodservice operators do to reassure their customers that they are serving them with the food described on the menu?

“The golden rule is; know your suppliers,” said Paul Huck, director of Zolfo Cooper’s Forensic and Litigation Support Services.

“As everyday commerce moves from local to international suppliers, advanced due diligence before you start working with anyone is a must. Then constant feedback and assessment of suppliers must be built into contract management. Suppliers should act as an extension of your business and be treated as such.”

Huck advises only using suppliers who sign up to the same standards as your company has and, if any member of staff does notice anything awry, to ensure it is reported and acted upon. 

Shabaz Mohammed, managing director of Pelican Buying Company, agrees that having confidence in a supplier is crucial. 

"We have spoken to all our suppliers on behalf of our customers and have complete confidence in the practices and procedures they have put in place to ensure against contamination of meat products with horsemeat. We would strongly recommend that operators do the same," he said.  

"For those operators still concerned, we recommend that they stop purchasing processed meat products, or switch to products where there is full traceability back to a quality assured UK farm.

"A good example of this is Red Tractor Assurance. The Red Tractor logo is your guarantee of quality and origin. Every critical step of the food supply chain is independently inspected to ensure food is produced to quality standards by assured farmers, growers and producers in the UK, from farm to pack." 

Simon Walker, director of Ecommerce Innovation at strategic information management company Stibo Systems, who has just started working with pub chain Mitchells & Butlers, said now food operators were under close scrutiny from the public and officials, it may be worth investing in a system which could centrally hold all product details for staff to access. 

“As this story continues to build, it’s highly likely that new legislation will soon be put in place requiring these companies to govern the process within the supply chain and become even more accountable for the information provided on each of their products. 

“Having a robust means of accurately collating, monitoring and managing product and ingredient information, will help food services companies better manage food product information, ingredients, and suppliers, and avoiding potential damage to their reputation and bottom line," he said. 

Tips for avoiding the horsemeat scandal fallout:

  • Ensure suppliers you use are signed up to the same standards as your company
  • Get to know your suppliers and speak to them regularly
  • For operators with multiple sites, consider having details on all products held centrally and encourage staff to learn what is in each dish

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