'Buy British food' plea to stores
Supermarkets must stop scouring the world for the cheapest food they can find and sell more British products that consumers want, farmers have demanded in the wake of the horse meat scandal.
National Farmers' Union president Peter Kendall said there had been "real shock" that consumers had been deceived over what they bought, when it emerged burgers and other meat products from supermarkets, caterers and in schools and hospitals had been contaminated with horse meat.
He told the NFU's annual conference that consumers wanted to know food was coming from as close to home as possible, and called on retailers to back British farmers and growers.
Polling for the NFU revealed that more than three quarters of people want supermarkets to sell more British food and many are more likely to buy traceable British produce as a result of the horse meat debacle.
Responding to the pressure put on supermarkets since contamination of meat products, in a tangled supply chain that stretched across Europe, emerged last month, Tesco announced a "sincere commitment" to source more meat closer to home.
The supermarket giant unveiled a series of measures to restore consumer confidence and deliver a shorter, more transparent supply chain, but insisted the changes would not push up prices for customers.
Mr Kendall said supermarkets had put damaging pressure on processors to force down the price of food, but those processors were ultimately responsible for the "fraud", because "they should have told the retailers to get stuffed, that you can't do eight burgers for a pound".
He demanded retailers back shorter supply chains which source high quality, traceable products from farmers in the UK and for an end to marketing campaigns which dressed up foreign imports in a "homely British-sounding name" to fool consumers.
Mr Kendall criticised Morrisons for their "Hemsley" range, which he said sounded like a traditional market town in Yorkshire but used poultry imported from abroad and produced to less exacting welfare standards than the supermarket demands of British suppliers.
"We now need supermarkets to stop scouring the world for the cheapest products they can find and start sourcing high quality, traceable product from farmers here at home," he said.