Feb.27 - Tesco announces plans to buy more British beef after the horsemeant scandal, so just how much pressure are the big food retailers under? Hayley Platt reports
It's behind some of the world's best known brands. But according to Oxfam when it comes to ethical policies Associated British Foods is far from top. In its survey of the world's ten biggest food and drink companies, ABF came bottom. The aid agency's CEO Barbara Stocking said all food firms were failing to protect farmers, local communities and the environment - but particularly ABF. SOUNDBITE: Barbara Stocking, CEO, Oxfam Aid Agency, saying (English): "They have very few overall policies for their companies within their total system. Beyond that lack of transparency. In addition to that of course what we really need to know are they telling suppliers down their supply chain is what sort of ethical standards they need them to meet and we have no transparency about even who their suppliers are." The 'Behind the Brands' report rated the firms in seven categories. Amoung them, transparency issues, protecting women's rights and poverty. None of the global brands including Mars, Coca-Cola and Kellogg's came out unscathed. Although Nestle and Unilever scored the highest overall. ABF rejected its ranking, saying it treats local producers, communities and the environment with the utmost respect. Europe's horsemeat scandal has shown just how complex the meat supply chain is. And many experts say a lack of transparency is behind that problem too. Tim Lang is Professor of Food Security at London's City University. SOUNDBITE: Tim Lang, Professor of Food Security, saying (English): "It's exposed how routine mass fraud and adulteration has gone on throughout the European food system. To the extent that there isn't a health problem, it's exposed the bigger problem which is the systematic nature of the lack of control and routine fraud that's gone on and that has actually been the scandal." Consumers are now showing more interest in where their food comes from. And retailers are listening. Philip Clarke, the CEO of UK-based Tesco, has just announced a plan to buy British beef. SOUNDBITE: Philip Clarke, CEO, Tesco, saying (English): "I'm going to bring the production of food closer to home which means buying more from the British Isles and processing more of it here in the British Isles." Sales of Fairtrade goods are also up in the UK as are sales of meat from butchers. SOUNDBITE: Barbara Stocking, CEO, Oxfam, saying (English): "Consumers really want to know what is in their food, where it's coming from and in our case, how are the people treated who are producing this food, can they actually afford to buy enough food for themselves from what they're earning form the prices that they're being paid at the farm gate." Whether its ethical issues or food safety the big retailers are under pressure. How they respond will be key to restoring consumer confidence.