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Horsemeat, food quality and safety standards: live webchat with Sainsbury's brand director Judith Batchelar, TODAY, 9.30-10.30am

(90 Posts)
RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 07-Mar-13 13:36:50

We're welcoming the Director of Sainsbury's Brand Judith Batchelar for a webchat on Tuesday, 12 March, 9:30am-10:30am.

Judith is responsible for Sainsbury's food quality and safety standards, as well as its development work with British farmers and new product development.

She has worked in the food and drink industry for 29 years, is a biochemist and registered nutritionist.

While no horsemeat has been found in any of Sainsbury's products, Judith will be able to discuss the issue and tell you what to look for on labels and packaging to work out where food has come from, as well as giving advice on how you can balance value for money and ethical sourcing.

Do post your question in advance on this thread, or join us live on Tuesday 12 March, 9:30am-10:30am.

Many thanks

turningvioletviolet Mon 11-Mar-13 20:02:05

Just popped in to say that I worked with Judith many moons ago in the biscuit department at M & S. She very kindly sent me a Cranks veggie cookbook when I was on mat leave with my son (who's now 16!) which still sits on my book shelf. Anyway just thought I'd wave hello now. Happy memories of shortbread, chocolate teacakes and high fibre digestives.

Nikced Mon 11-Mar-13 21:34:25

ItsAllGoingToBeFine good question, I'd like to know too. Also SwearyBear.

With Chickens/eggs I know to buy organic/free range. Is there something that does the same for pork/beef etc? We are all veggies except Ds who does like bacon, I always get bacon that says 'from British/UK pigs, produced/processed in Britain/UK. Does this mean animal welfare has been ok?

Yy with the voucher thing, I didn't realise your 'saving money' vouchers had a 'use by' date! I had a few saved up and they were all out of date, really wasn't happy! Might as well go to the shop that was cheaper at the time rather than not have a saving. Short dates not clear in your adverts or by your staff - until the one that scoffed at me when the vouchers didn't work!-

MotherSouperior Mon 11-Mar-13 21:37:33

I also wanted to congratulate Sainsbury's for its allergy ranges, which have been a godsend to us.

And I'd like to second SwearyBear's question. I found the horsemeat scandal an eyeopener - not only in terms of the horrific media guffaws of 'What did you expect in economy food?' but also as I'd always assumed supermarkets had their own quality assurance departments.

Could Judith please tell us about Sainsbury's QA department & procedures? I hope it's not left to the supplier to do it, as this has clearly been open to abuse (in beef, of all things, which surely after the BSE scandal should have been the best monitored of the lot hmm)

Thanks very much.

<decides against mentioning the simple joy I get from seeing the Sainsbury's apostrophe. As that's too petty for words...blush>

Merguez Mon 11-Mar-13 21:38:41

My local Sainsbury's is a medium-size store in a rural town. Why did you stop selling organic whole chickens there?

And why is the only organic milk available in plastic bottles, I prefer a tetrapak?

Why do you sell organic sausages and bacon but not organic ham?

Woofers Mon 11-Mar-13 22:11:38

Following on from the horse meat scandal - where do your chickens come from? There is no indication on your pies / easy cook / Kiev / soup?

We won't buy any chicken unless we know its free range as we don't agree that having 6 chickens on a space no bigger than an a4 page. And worse still, I won't eat chicken, or any meat from another country, not when we have so much in this country, nor do we know the standards of their abattoirs.

Many thanks

AGiddyKipperInOneHand Tue 12-Mar-13 08:07:27

Please tell me whether it is possible for a murderer to hide a body by cutting it up and feeding it to farmed pigs (it's been used in a number of crime dramas and books) and, following on from that, is it possible for the same pigs to become meat for humans, sold in supermarkets? (And before anyone scoffs, consider the number of missing persons.)

notcitrus Tue 12-Mar-13 09:12:07

What control do you have over your suppliers to ensure what meat or products are what they say, if they are sourcing from other countries particularly outside the EU?

Also why have you recently added dextrose, ie sugar, to all your oven chips? They used to be simple potato with sunflower oil.

I've also had problems with some packaging recently, particularly your liquid stain remover in the dark pink bottle - it's so flimsy that you squirt it all over just by picking up the bottle.

However please pass on compliments to the staff at Streatham Common who are an exceptionally friendly and helpful bunch.

TheMancunianWay Tue 12-Mar-13 09:28:22

I think the issue here is more about labelling than the actual content - if its not 100% beef don't label it as such. It's being lied to that consumers object to more. How confident are you that Sainsbury's will be able to guarantee their products are beef when they are labelled beef and don't contain a percentage of pork, for example?

TheOtherHelenMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 12-Mar-13 09:30:43

Hi everyone - we're here at Sainsbury's HQ and Judith is here to answer your questions so we'll get started!

JudithBatchelar Tue 12-Mar-13 09:32:40

Hello everyone, really pleased to be here! Thank you for joining me on this webchat. Thank you for posting your questions - I'll aim to answer as many as possible in the next hour.

JudithBatchelar Tue 12-Mar-13 09:38:20

TheMancunianWay

I think the issue here is more about labelling than the actual content - if its not 100% beef don't label it as such. It's being lied to that consumers object to more. How confident are you that Sainsbury's will be able to guarantee their products are beef when they are labelled beef and don't contain a percentage of pork, for example?

We go to great lengths to ensure that what it says on the packet is what is in the packet. That includes working with our suppliers and in turn their suppliers, having full traceability of the end to end supply chain right back to farm. Finally, testing finished product for DNA, food safety, country of origin and whether a product has been previously frozen. Both our fresh and frozen beef burgers are made from British beef.

JudithBatchelar Tue 12-Mar-13 09:38:48

Jcee

I've found the horsemeat scandal fascinating from the perspective of how complex our food chain has become and the numbers of producers and suppliers involved and complicated production logistics often over a wide geographic area in the quest for bigger profits.

I'm not surprised everyone has lost track of it all and we are where we are. I now feel that we (society) are in a rubbish place with regard to our relationship with food, how it's produced and what we should expect from producers and suppliers.

With your long experience in the sector, do you agree? where do we go from here and who should be leading the way?

I'm not sure a mea culpa from some in the sector with a commitment to doing better is enough - it'll all come down to profits in the end so ultimately there'll be no change <cynical>

aristocat I'd forgotten all about sugocasa - I loved that too!

If the horsemeat scandal means more consumers ask questions about
where their food comes from I think that’s a good thing. We should care
about where our food comes from.

Sainsbury’s buys a lot of meat from British farmers. I don’t just mean the traditional cuts of meat but all of the chicken, pork and beef in our fresh ready meals, pies and sandwiches, quiches and soups are 100% British with the exception of continental meats. Some things such as Parma ham have to come from Parma.

You asked about where we go from here. In 2011 Sainsbury’s announced an
ambitious target to double the amount of British food it sells by 2020.

We work closely with over 2,500 farmers who are part of Sainsbury’s dedicated Farmer Development Groups and have invested over £40 million in
developing these relationships to achieve this goal.

We are a business but we don’t make decisions just based on price. We don’t think that makes good business sense. For example we have recently announced that we are extending our agreement with the milk farmers who supply us. Under the agreement we reward them for their outstanding animal welfare and environmental standards by paying them according to the cost of production rather than open market prices.

Chineye Tue 12-Mar-13 09:39:03

Hi Judith, I'd like to know about Sainsbury's testing regime, i.e what do they test for, what percentage of their annual purchase do they test, how often do they test, do they carry out testing at their suppliers premises, are they 100% confident of their supply chain?

bebee Tue 12-Mar-13 09:39:06

Do you think the UK public would ever accept horsemeat as a food - if it was killed and prepared properly - ie they knew what they were getting?

aliceb4 Tue 12-Mar-13 09:40:41

Hi Judith, as it says in the op no horsemeat has been found in any of Sainsbury's products as yet. Do you think there's a good reason for that? Are you practices better than your rivals or is everyone broadly operating similarly and you've just been lucky so far?

bizageza Tue 12-Mar-13 09:45:26

How do companies actually test products? Can the process be trusted? Is there an independent body doing it on a regular basis or are we relying on the supermarkets or suppliers to tell us? I can't actually remember how the scandal started - who first found the horse meat?

JudithBatchelar Tue 12-Mar-13 09:45:44

notcitrus

What control do you have over your suppliers to ensure what meat or products are what they say, if they are sourcing from other countries particularly outside the EU?

Also why have you recently added dextrose, ie sugar, to all your oven chips? They used to be simple potato with sunflower oil.

I've also had problems with some packaging recently, particularly your liquid stain remover in the dark pink bottle - it's so flimsy that you squirt it all over just by picking up the bottle.

However please pass on compliments to the staff at Streatham Common who are an exceptionally friendly and helpful bunch.

Every single Sainsbury's product has a very detailed product specification, which articulates in detail the source of every ingredient, including country of origin, the testing required of that product, which will include food safety testing, country of origin testing, nutritional testing. The specification also includes the labelling, packaging, recycling and shelf-life and storage guidelines. In fact there's not much it doesn't include!

However, this is not just a paperwork exercise. We visit and audit suppliers and sometimes they don't know we're coming. We test product independently as well in our own laboratory. And we require supplier to share their test results. The important point in all of this, is that whereever we source from, we source to the same high standards.

I'll come back to you on the dextrose question and your comments on the packaging.

JudithBatchelar Tue 12-Mar-13 09:46:24

jackstini

I want to know when a supermarket is going to brave enough to sell different food as a cheaper option
I am quite happy to eat horse meat if it is labelled as such; especially as it's lower in fat and could be cheaper. Who will be first to do it?

Also happy to buy the odd shaped vegetables that seem to get thrown away in this country angry and am sure I am not alone
This could be a huge opportunity to sell food that would otherwise go to waste and save your customers money too

You definitely aren’t alone. In these stretched times more and more people are looking for cheaper alternatives and we are doing our best to help. We don’t have any plans to start selling horsemeat but we are more focused than ever on providing ways for our customers to make the most of their food shop. For example, through our most recent ‘Make Your Roast Go Further’ campaign we’re giving information on how to create two additional family meals from every Sunday roasting joint.

We have also responded to one of the worst growing seasons farmers have
experienced in decades by changing our approach to ‘ugly’ fruit and vegetables
allowing food that would previously have been wasted to be sold.

None of Sainsbury’s food waste goes to landfill. Instead we donate any surplus food to charities and any waste not fit for consumption, goes to anaerobic digestion to generate renewable energy.

JustGiveMeFiveMinutes Tue 12-Mar-13 09:47:27

Hello Judith. I've no doubt whatsoever that you'll ignore this post or at the very least claim that the issue I'm raising is not your area or similar, but I'm going to make my point anyway.

Some time ago I moved to a great town. In the heart of the town centre is a Sainsbury's. It is small and scruffy and the intention of Sainsburys was to expoand the store. Sainsburys set about buying up properties within the town centre with the intention of knocking them down eventually and building a superstore. However, the local people objected on the basis that the store would be too big at which point (and I say this as an observer, not somebody who was ever directly involved with the protest) Sainsbury's threw their toys out of the pram and have basically let the town cetntre rot. The place is like a ghost town and it's an absolute disgrace. No doubt it will serve as a warning to any other twon which dares to object to Sainsbury's. What your company has done is disgustig and it shows the contempt supermarkets such as yours have for local comminities.

I will not shop at Sainsbury's because of their behaviour. Good luck with your lovely touchy, feely webchat but everybody should be aware that Sainsbury's have been happy to see an entire community rot because that's what suits them.

JudithBatchelar Tue 12-Mar-13 09:48:56

1991all

What's so special about Sainsburys that they escaped the horse meat scandal?
Or was it just luck?

We aren’t being complacent but I don’t think it is down to luck. This issue has
highlighted the importance of having a detailed knowledge of and involvement in your supply chain. This is something that's part of Sainsbury's 144 year heritage.

We have one of the most extensive quality control programmes in the industry
and we apply the same checks right across our products - from basics to Taste the Difference.   We have used DNA testing for over a decade, as well as checks on country of origin, announced and unannounced audits of suppliers and independent product testing to ensure that what it says on the label is what you are buying.

This is not just about our quality control measures.  Our entire supply chain,
from farm to store, is built around long-term sustainable relationships. 

We work closely with over 2,500 farmers who are part of Sainsbury’s
dedicated Farmer Development Groups and have invested over £40 million in
developing these relationships, as part of our commitment to double our sales
of British food by 2020.

JudithBatchelar Tue 12-Mar-13 09:50:44

bebee

Do you think the UK public would ever accept horsemeat as a food - if it was killed and prepared properly - ie they knew what they were getting?

It is perfectly legal to sell horse meat in the UK as long as you are licenced to do so. Historically there hasn't been a huge demand for horse meat, but in a similar fashion, venison hasn't been that popular in recent years, but is starting to become more commonplace. So who knows? smile

JediGirl21 Tue 12-Mar-13 09:51:57

Are Sainsbury's worried about
The Tesco Haiku Approach
i.e. "we're really listening now"?

Or are you confident that what you're doing* is enough?

what *are you doing btw?
Thanks

JudithBatchelar Tue 12-Mar-13 09:53:52

GreatGooglyMoogly

I am staggered by the number of products that now contain some kind of fructose syrup instead of/ as well as sugar. I assume this is because sugar is so expensive? What are your views on this and could we please have some product options without it in? I am happy to pay more!

More generally, I want to buy food with ingredients I recognise as food in them not things that sound like a chemistry lesson - please could we have more of these options?

We have done a lot of work on this. Where fructose syrup is used in Sainsbury’s products, it is listed as glucose-fructose syrup.

Glucose-fructose syrup is used in a variety of Sainsbury’s products to provide
sweetness, either alone or in combination with table sugar.

At present, most leading scientists and nutrition experts agree that, in terms of health, the effects of consuming glucose-fructose syrup are the same as that of regular sugar, particularly in relation to dental health. In relation to obesity, both table sugar and glucose-fructose syrup provide 4kcal per gram consumed. The guideline daily amount for sugar, including sugar consumed as Glucose-fructose syrup, is 90g for adults.

motherofallmuddles Tue 12-Mar-13 09:55:23

I'm with the other O/Ps the vouchers are so annoying esp when they could simply be added to my nectar card.
What I don't understand is how the horsemeat could have ever entered into the food chain in the first place. Surely this signals an awful lack of awareness as to where the meat is coming from or a total lack of concern by the Supermarkets.
So how can you guarantee 100% that Sainsbury's is horsefree and more importantly what do you think should be done in the future to ensure we can trust the Supermarkets on our high streets.

JudithBatchelar Tue 12-Mar-13 10:00:11

Woofers

Following on from the horse meat scandal - where do your chickens come from? There is no indication on your pies / easy cook / Kiev / soup?

We won't buy any chicken unless we know its free range as we don't agree that having 6 chickens on a space no bigger than an a4 page. And worse still, I won't eat chicken, or any meat from another country, not when we have so much in this country, nor do we know the standards of their abattoirs.

Many thanks

All of our fresh chicken is British and has been for last 10 years and in addition, our frozen chicken has been British for over 6 years. The chicken in our fresh ready meals, sandwiches, soups and pies is also British. Our country of origin labelling should state this clearly on the pack, on the front with a union flag and the words chicken, and on the back of pack next to the ingredients list. I will check out the examples you've just given.

We are the biggest retailer in the world of RSPCA Freedom Food higher welfare chicken and we do offer standard free range and organic chickens. However we do have something quite unique in our Woodland chickens, which can be both free range and organic, in that we plant trees around the chicken houses to encourage the chickens to range and roam and generally display natural chicken behaviours. Indeed, independent academic research has shown that these Woodland chickens have better welfare outcomes than conventional free range or organic birds. Today you can buy in Sainsbury's a very special Woodland bird, the Norfolk Black Chicken, which is a cross between a continental black feathered and legged bird and a more traditional big-breasted British bird. You can easily spot it in our stores by its black legs but I have to say, I now buy it all the time because it's absolutely delicious! Our farmer, Mark Gorton, won the recent Poultry Farmer of the year Award.

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