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Horsemeat: Tesco To Source More Meat From UK

(c) Sky News 2013

Tesco (Other OTC: TSCDY - news) has announced a commitment to source more of its meat from the UK at a farming conference in Birmingham today.

The supermarket kingpin has told the National Farmers Union meeting that by July all its chicken will come from British farms, and pork products will follow.

Tesco will also offer suppliers two-year contracts to help companies plan their business for the longer term.

The company's chief executive, Phillip Clarke, addressed the conference today, told Sky News: "We feel the need to bring the food closer to home.

"We think it's right to bring more of it back to the UK, so long as we can get the demand from the UK."

Earlier this month, Mr Clarke said in a video on Tesco's website that the company would take a more open approach to food processing after it was found to be selling products contaminated with horsemeat.

Tesco was one of the first retailers to pull products from its shelves after the horsemeat contamination was revealed on January 16 after analysis was undertaken by Irish food officials.

Tests on Findus beef lasagne revealed that some of the ready meals were made entirely from horsemeat.

And Tesco found levels of horse DNA exceeded 60% in tests on its Everyday Value Spaghetti Bolognese.

Since the horsemeat scandal broke, supermarkets have been criticised for not communicating with customers quickly enough.

They have also seen frozen burger sales and ready meal sales plunge dramatically, data by Kantar Worldpanel showed .

In an attempt to be more transparent, Tesco said it would put cameras on the supply chain so shoppers could see where the food they are eating has come from and how it was produced.

"There's nothing for anybody to hide. There never should be," said Mr Clarke.

While it already sources all its beef products from the UK and Ireland (OTC BB: IRLD - news) , the food retailer admits suppliers had cut corners.

"The impact so far on sales is minimal," Mr Clarke added, though he acknowledged that some customers are buying fewer frozen ready meals.

George MacDonald, Retail Week executive editor, told Sky News, "The shopper can feel fairly confident that anybody involved is going to be looking very closely indeed at how they can sort out these problems."

As the nation's biggest supermarket, Tesco should be at the forefront of campaign to restore trust in food, Mr MacDonald believes.

"It is essential for them to fully reconnect with the customer," he said.

Sky News has confirmed that Harvester has become the latest outlet to withdraw burger products for precautionary reasons over horsemeat fears.

The firm withdrew its 6oz burgers from sale after equine DNA was found in burgers destined for Whitbread (LSE: WTB.L - news) their Doncaster-based supplier, Paragon Quality Foods Ltd.

Paragon (Berlin: PGN.BE - news) has confirmed no contamination of Harvester burgers occurred, and its website insisted: "Only high quality meat, fully traceable to the farm is used in our superior burger."

A Harvester spokesperson told Sky News: "The Harvester burger had a negative test result but as Paragon had received a positive test result for a batch of 6oz burgers in the factory we removed our product as a precautionary measure in case of any possible contamination.

"We are in the process of replacing all existing stock with a fresh batch."

:: Pembrokeshire Council has withdrawn mince products from all schools, care homes and day care centres after horsemeat was found in one supplier's products.

:: Ikea has withdrawn its beef and pork wiener sausages from sale in France, Spain, UK, Ireland and Portugal over contamination fears, which were made by the same Swedish supplier as its horsemeat-tainted meatballs.

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