Supermarket apologises as BBC reporter buys withdrawn burger after cashier in Oxford overrides warning message
Tesco has apologised and launched an urgent investigation after one of its stores sold burgers that were meant to have been withdrawn last week amid the horsemeat contamination scare.
The supermarket acted after a BBC reporter managed to buy a packet of Tesco-brand “free from” frozen quarter-pounders when a member of staff overrode an alert message on a till at a store in Cowley, Oxford.
The BBC had been tipped off by a customer that lines Tesco had ordered to be removed as a precaution were still on sale.
Meanwhile, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) said on Friday that a new round of samples taken from the British food plant implicated in the scare had tested negative for both horse and pork DNA.
Seven samples were taken from the Dalepak Hambleton plant near Northallerton, North Yorkshire, after Irish safety watchdogs who carried out tests late last year revealed last week that some products made there were tainted.
The follow-up checks, made by trading standards officers on behalf of the FSA, concentrated on the same lines at the plant, which has been continuing production.
Investigations are ongoing after an estimated 10m beefburgers were taken off the shelves when some lines from Tesco, Aldi, Lidl and Iceland were discovered to have contained traces of horsemeat.
Supermarkets not implicated in the Irish tests at Dalepak and two Irish plants also withdrew products from sale as a precaution.
Waitrose, which took unaffected products off the shelves on Monday, later than some competitors, now plans to refill its shelves as soon as possible, after the British Retailers Consortium restored its accreditation to Dalepak following nearly a week’s suspension.
Other tests are continuing in Ireland. One of the Irish plants, Silvercrest, in County Monaghan, which is used by Tesco and other companies operating in the UK and, like Dalepack, is owned by ABP Foods, halted production last week.
Simon Coveney, the Irish agriculture and food minister, said more test results from Silvercrest were coming in from German and Irish laboratories. “It is a very large processing facility that is producing 20,000 tonnes of burgers per annum, with a wide range of ingredients. The investigation is being carried out in a systematic fashion and this requires the correlation of all the information necessary to draw credible conclusions,” he said.
“In excess of 130 samples of burgers and ingredients have been taken in the past week and a range of results are currently being received. These results are subject to confirmatory verification in a different laboratory and are being correlated with other results.”
Coveney said veterinary staff were examining the plant’s records with a view to identifying ingredients from every sample tested.
Tesco said of the Cowley incident: “While this product was not implicated in the FSAI investigation, and was withdrawn as a precaution, we are urgently investigating how this product came to be on a shelf in store.
“The block on purchase at the checkout should not have been overridden. We sincerely apologise for this, and we have spoken to the store to ensure this does not happen again.”