Tesco supermarket has placed full-page advertisments in national UK newspapers apologising for selling beefburgers that were later found to contain horse meat.
In the adverts, the headline reads, “We Apologize,” then, “We and our supplier have let you down and we apologize.”
The supermarket giant also said it promised to find out “what happened and, when we do, we’ll come back and tell you,” adding, “And we will work harder than ever with all our suppliers to make sure this never happens again.”
According to BBC News, on Tuesday, Irish food inspectors found almost 30 percent horsemeat in one brand sold by Tesco. Smaller amounts were also found in beefburgers sold by other stores such as Iceland, Lidl and Aldi and Dunnes.
Officials have said the contaminated products, which were on sale in the UK and the Irish Republic, posed no human health risk and and have been taken off shop shelves.
Tesco has confirmed that three of its stocked products —- Tesco Everyday Value 8 x Frozen Beef Burgers (397g), Tesco 4 x Frozen Beef Quarter Pounders (454g) and Flamehouse Frozen Chargrilled Quarter Pounders — have been withdrawn from sale.
The company also said that any customers who had any of the contaminated product could return them to any Tesco store for a full refund.
The shocking revelations come just one week after Tesco’s chief executive Philip Clarke said the company was “back on form” in the UK as it reported its strongest growth in UK Christmas sales for three years, The Telegraph reports.
However, the horse meat scandal saw a drop in the company’s shares on Wednesday, wiping nearly £300m off Tesco’s value on Wednesday.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron condemned the situation as “a completely unacceptable state of affairs” and has called for investigation by the UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA).
“People in our country will have been very concerned to read this morning that when they thought they were buying beefburgers, they were buying something that had horse meat in it,” he added.
A raft of consumer analysts have said the horse meat crisis will severely damage consumer trust in Tesco’s products, but it may only be a temporary dip.
One of them, Espirito Santo Investment Bank analyst, Caroline Gulliver, said the news was unhelpful at a time when the retail giant was seeking to promote “the quality underpinning Tesco own label and Everyday Value products.”
Another, Tim Lang, a professor of food policy at City University, London, warned on Wednesday that consumers could have been unwittingly eating horse meat “for years,” telling the Daily Telegraph:
“For too long we have had light-touch regulation. The Food Standards Agency has to be institutionalised into taking a more critical approach.”
The FSA has said it will continue to monitor the investigation and will also decide on what legal action should be taken against any of the companies involved.
A pan-European investigation of suppliers for beefburgers found to contain equine and porcine DNA is now underway by the UK, the Irish government, and food watchdogs, said The Guardian.
The FSA inquiry covered beefburgers processed at two plants in Ireland — Liffey Meats and Silvercrest Foods — and at Dalepak Hambleton in North Yorkshire in an analysis of 27 beefburgers products. Ten (35 precent) tested positive for horse DNA and 85 percent were positive for pig DNA.
In addition, a total of 31 beef ready meal products such as cottage pie, beef curry pie, and lasagna were tested, with 21 found to be positive for pig DNA. None contained horse meat.
Tim Smith, Tesco’s group technical director, said: “We will not tolerate any compromise in the quality of the food we sell. The presence of illegal meat in our products is extremely serious.”