UK Politics

David Cameron: Lessons to learn on horsemeat scandal

The Food Standards Agency (FSA), the government and retailers all have lessons to learn from the horsemeat scandal, David Cameron has said.

But he defended the decision to move some of the functions of the FSA back into government, insisting it did not harm its ability to respond.

The PM was speaking to select committee chairs on the Liaison Committee.

Concerns about food standards were sparked after horsemeat was found in a number of processed beef products.

Mr Cameron told MPs he felt the FSA and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs had responded well to the crisis.

Tesco withdrawal

But he added: "There are lesson for everybody to learn in terms of what's happened over horsemeat and the scandal there.

"I think there are lessons for the FSA, probably lessons for the department, lessons for the retailers and international lessons that need to be learnt. We must make sure we learn them."

But a decision to split the policy and technical food safety functions of the FSA in 2010 did not prevent the FSA "acting properly", the prime minister said.

His remarks comes as it emerged Tesco had withdrawn a line of frozen meatloaf made in Northern Ireland after tests revealed it contained between 2% and 5% horsemeat.

It said it had pulled the 600g packs of Tesco Simply Roast Meatloaf made between October last year and January at Eurostock in Craigavon, Northern Ireland, from its shelves.

The supermarket said it was the fourth of its products to test positive for horsemeat contamination.

'Major error'

Mr Cameron, who faces regular questioning by the committee, was also asked about the West Coast Main Line fiasco, which he described as "personally very frustrating".

He said assurances he had sought through the cabinet secretary that the franchise process was being conducted properly had turned out to be wrong which was "not acceptable".

The flawed process had been a "major error and a major problem," he added.

In October, the government scrapped its decision to award the £5bn West Coast franchise to FirstGroup.

The reversal will cost taxpayers almost £50m, it has been estimated.

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