Hard to swallow

Supermarket freezers

After the horsemeat-in-burgers scandal, consumers are likely to foot the bill for greater transparency and traceability in international food supply chains, reports Dr Pamela Robinson

Putting your head above the parapet is never easy as an academic, but sometimes events overtake us! The recent horsemeat controversy is one of those occasions. The discovery of equine DNA in a selection of products sold by the UK’s leading supermarket retailers is more than just an issue of ‘rogue’ behaviour by a small group of unscrupulous players in international supply chains; it raises real concerns about the safety of the food on our plate.

The trust that we, as shoppers, have placed in our local and favourite supermarket has been undermined. The retail industry may have been quick to act by removing the products from sale that were potentially contaminated and by sponsoring full-page advertisements in national newspapers stating that they would route out the culprits. However, the lack of explanation as to why this incident could have happened in the first place caused a great deal of anxiety for many consumers. The usually boisterous and market savvy retailers, who constantly promote their great price promotions, buy one get one free, proved far more reticent when a guarantee of the safety of their beef burgers and frozen ready meals was concerned.