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Horse meat scandal will make industry stronger, says apetito boss
A Trowbridge ready meals firm thinks the ongoing horse meat scandal is an opportunity for the food industry to improve and offer more clarity to its customers.
Paul Freeston, chief executive of apetito which is based in Canal Road and supplies meals for hospitals and care homes, says he believes the industry will emerge stronger as a result of the revelations.
Public trust in supermarket frozen meals has plummeted following the first discovery of equine DNA contamination in January.
Over the past two months, the scandal has seen meals from Findus, Birdseye, Tesco, the Co-op, Lidl, Iceland and Aldi all pulled from shelves – but no trace of the meat has been found in any of apetito’s meals after the Food Standards Agency ordered companies to test their beef products.
He said: “It has been damaging to the ready meals and food service industry but it has not had a significant effect on us in terms of loss of customers. I think that’s because of our transparency.”
At the end of February, apetito published the test results carried out on its products as well as the results of a test by Newtown-abbey Borough Council, in Northern Ireland, that found between one per cent and five per cent of pork in one of its beef lasagne meals.
Mr Freeston said: “This is one small weakness on our part and it is not acceptable. We will now be putting in place further segregation between species in our butchery and kitchens.
“We serve some of the most vulnerable people in our society and food safety is paramount for us.
“We want to bring our DNA testing in-house to bring even more peace of mind to our customers.”
The company employs around 500 people at its Trowbridge base and employs 2,000 people nationwide, with additional numbers in the firm’s Wiltshire Farm Food home delivery franchise.
Mr Freeston said: “Nobody knows when the horse meat situation is going to end and clearly there has been some criminal activity along the way, but hopefully the whole industry will come out of it stronger.”
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