The Nightmare of Metal Contaminated Food
On Friday 21st April 2017, UK supermarket giant Morrisons was faced with a ‘Metal In Food’ health scare. As reported by the BBC and others, two customers found the metal in packets of the vegetables in Manchester and Glasgow stores.
The Food Standards Agency issued a warning for the affected products, which are the supermarket’s 170g bags of the beans with display until dates of 22 April, 23 April and 24 April.
Unfortunately, this latest ‘Metal In Food’ scare is not unusual. Even though a spokeswoman for Morrisons said an investigation was under way, the ramifications of this latest food health scare are considerable. Not only is there the cost of recalling and refunding the product, but the announcement will affect consumer confidence. As the UK supermarket war prevails, customers are very quick to switch allegiance and concerns about ‘Metal In Food’ might be enough for them to purchase their food at competitor’s stores.
For Morrisons, the question is how did such a food health scare occur. Although it is unclear where these green beans were sourced, food is sourced globally. However, the levels of control in different countries is variable. A plant in Egypt may have different outlook than a UK producer with regards to health safety. There are strict regulations in Europe that often do not apply outside our borders. These regulations protect the consumer, but often mean higher production costs.
However, as the supermarket war continues, the pressure to find lower cost food sources intensifies.
And therein lies the conundrum.
If Morrisons and other supermarkets are going to increase their reliance on food supplied from outside of Western Europe, then will they dictate the food safety standards? Some food suppliers such as M&S already instruct their suppliers on how to prevent ‘Metal In Food’ safety scares, providing advice on the installation of both Magnetic Separators and Metal Detectors. They also regularly inspect their suppliers plants.
There is a significant cost involved in this proactive and involved approach, which may be too much for some supermarkets to accept.
Another option is to have all products checked at a warehouse prior to despatch. The green beans in question could have passed through a tunnel-type Metal Detector which would have detected the metal. However, such an initiative would increase processing time, delay despatches, and in crease costs (i.e. personnel).
This latest ‘Metal In Food’ scare follows many others including Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, metal in bread at Sainsbury, metal found in food processing plants in the USA. And it will not be the last. The big question is what needs to be done to regain consumer confidence and ensure that food products on supermarket shelves are ‘Metal-Free’.
The other Food Safety reports relating to Metal-in-Food include:
- Metal contaminated metal scare;
- Metal found in chocolate eclairs;
- Sainsbury warns of metal in bread;
- Metal shards contaminate meat;
For more information on preventing Metal Contamination Food Safety Scares, please contact the Bunting team on:
Phone: +44 (0) 1442 875081