Young’s distances itself from Findus horsemeat scandal

February 14, 2013, 7:39 am

Young’s Seafood is seeking to put distance between its supply chain management and sourcing methods and that of a sister company which sold horse meat as beef.

The Grimsby, UK-based seafood processor -- which is part of Findus Group, under fire in the media for selling horsemeat as beef -- said its testing levels set the industry standard.

It also highlighted the integration of its processing, unlike the supply chain Findus was employing on the products where horse was sold as beef, where the company was buying finished products from an outside processor.

“Young's Seafood produces seafood products in factories owned and operated by ourselves, thereby selecting, testing, monitoring and controlling upstream suppliers and to [enable it to] check the raw materials,” a spokeswoman for the company told Undercurrent News.

“This is different from Findus, which has a third party supplier,” she said, in reference to the Findus supply chain.

“Our testing regime represents world leading standards in seafood compliance testing,” the company said. “Each year our team of more than 25 experienced and trained food analysts conduct 100,000 microbiological tests, 10,000 chemical analysis tests and we carry out more than 10,000 assessments of incoming raw materials.

“We do not believe that any other seafood business in the UK comes close to this level of inspection. Our processes are designed to deliver consistency and quality for our fish and seafood consumers,” she said.

On Thursday, Undercurrent ran an interview with Leendert den Hollander and Pete Ward, Young’s CEO and chief operating officer respectively, in which they both talked about the company’s emphasis on sourcing quality. The interview took place before the horsemeat scandal broke.

The company is focusing on buying high-quality products at the right price, in order to get the best price out “the door”, said Ward.

Young's is not telling its buyers to buy at the lowest price, but is assessing the price of the finished product, he said. This could mean buying a high-priced product that is the right quality and specification.

This is a shift away from the more centralized buying in Findus Group before the company was broken down into three divisions, Young’s in the UK and Findus in France and southern Europe and Findus in the Nordic region.

“Transparency” is one of the pillars of the company’s Fish for Life program, which it has shifted from a sourcing scheme to an overall business philosophy, said Mike Mitchell, the company’s technical and CSR director, in the same interview.

“It’s about being honest and forthright with the consumer. It is also about integrity.”

The company has also added a marine biologist, David Parker, to its staff.

“Parker will deal with a whole raft of issues on seafood sustainability, from politics through to science,” said Mitchell.

“For a seafood company to be hiring a scientific practitioner, is quite unique,” he said.

This is part of a “sea change” in the way the processing sector is dealing with sustainability, said Mitchell.

The company is working on programs where Parker can go out on vessels and looks at ways improve catching techniques.

‘Third party’

Findus had been sourcing beef, which then became contaminated with horse, from French processor Comigel. This was then being supplied into the UK from the contract processing plant, meaning Findus had little control over the supply chain.

French anti-fraud inspectors have been at the Comigel headquarters in Metz, north-east France, reported the BBC on Feb. 12.

Investigators were also at the offices of importer Spanghero, in the south of France, which brought the meat to France from Romania, via several other countries and agents.

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