Farmers say sell more British products

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson The environment secretary says consumer confidence has been "shaken"

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Farming leaders are urging supermarkets to stop scouring the world for the cheapest food.

At the National Farmers' Union (NFU) conference president Peter Kendall said supermarkets should source traceable products from British farmers.

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said farmers should not be tarnished by criminals' fraudulent activities over the horsemeat scandal.

Earlier, the head of Tesco pledged to bring meat production "closer to home."

Philip Clarke, who later addressed the conference in Birmingham, told the BBC he would work more closely with British farmers in response to the horsemeat scandal.

He told the conference: "Where it is reasonable to do so, we will source from British producers. As a first step I announce that from July all of our fresh chicken must come from UK farmers. No exceptions.

Close to home

In other developments:

  • Furniture company Ikea said it was withdrawing wiener sausages in the UK after tests found "indications" of horse meat
  • A number of Welsh councils have withdrawn all mince products from schools, care homes and day centres after horsemeat was found in a supplier's products
  • A poll for the NFU suggested more than three-quarters of people wanted supermarkets to stock more food from British farms. Some 43% of the 1,000 people surveyed said they were more likely to buy food traceable from UK farms

Mr Kendall told farmers supermarkets had put "damaging pressure" on processors to force down food prices, but processors were responsible because "they should have told the retailers to get stuffed, that you can't do eight burgers for a pound".

He said: "If there's one single message that's come from the horsemeat scandal, it's that our consumers want to know their food is coming from as close as home as possible."

Environment Secretary Mr Paterson told the conference the substitution of beef for horsemeat in a number of products "had shaken consumer confidence".

Tesco's Philip Clarke says the company is bringing meat production "closer to home"

"I am determined that this criminal activity should be stopped and that anyone who has defrauded the customer must feel the full force of the law," he said.

He said out of 3,654 tests carried out on beef products in the UK, only 35 have tested positive for horsemeat, a rate of less than 1%.

Their comments came after Mr Clarke said Tesco had introduced a new testing process.

Speaking prior to his speech to the NFU, he told the BBC he could not guarantee "right now today" that all of Tesco's products contained exactly what was on the label, but said "that is our objective."

"I'm sure that we will be able to say that in the future, once the testing regime is completely in place."

He said out of 300 tests they had completed three had shown products which were "most susceptible" to horsemeat contamination. "Most of them are fine" he said, but "three is too many."

The horsemeat scandal emerged in mid-January, when Irish food inspectors announced they had found traces of horsemeat in some frozen beefburgers stocked by UK supermarkets including Tesco, Iceland and Lidl.

Mr Clarke said his supermarket's testing regime on meat to ensure it was beef was the "most comprehensive" he had seen.

As for meat production, he said they do buy some products, particularly frozen ones, out of Europe, but as "we can we'll bring it closer to home".

He added: "I hope that it doesn't mean price increases, but I can't stand here today and tell you that it won't."

Chief executive of Sainsbury's Justin King said his supermarket was committed to doubling the amount of British food it sold by 2020.

In response to Mr Clarke's remarks, Sainsbury's said all its fresh chicken had been British for a decade and it had started using British chicken in frozen chicken ready meals.

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