Beefeater owner Whitbread delivered a trading update today

UK: Whitbread makes ‘field to fork’ pledge in wake of horsemeat alert

Tuesday, February 26, 2013
9.04 AM

BEEFEATER owner Whitbread today vowed to track ingredients from “field to fork” after being dragged into the horsemeat scandal earlier this month.

The leisure group, which owns the chains Brewers Fayre, Premier Inn and Costa, withdrew lasagne and beef burger products from its menus following the discovery of equine DNA on February 14.

In the wake of an investigation into its meat supply chain, Whitbread said it was taking measures such as the extension of independent batch testing on processed meat and the requirement for certification from meat suppliers.

It is also planning a new system of traceability to include a clear tracking of ingredients from “field to fork”.

The company, which expects to have newly sourced and certified beef burgers back on its menus this week, said it was determined to play its part in “repairing a flawed system”.

It added: “We believe that a wholesale change is required to the way the supply chain is regulated and a tougher regime needs to be put in place.

“As a major player within the industry we intend to take an active role and assist the Food Standards Agency in setting the standards in the food supply chain that the UK public expect and deserve.”

The update on the company’s meat supply came as Whitbread announced underlying sales growth of 2.7% in the 11 weeks to February 14. The figure compares with 3.3% in the previous quarter, but Whitbread said its performance was slightly suppressed by the impact of blizzards on its restaurants arm.

Whitbread said Costa “continued to excel” with total sales up 32.2% and by 5.5% when changes in store space are stripped out.

Chief executive Andy Harrison said: “We see no change to market conditions, although we expect a more competitive environment.”