Retailers have a set of clear obligations to their customers when they make a sale. The recent shocking news about horse meat getting in to burgers and other processed meals is a failure in the retail supply chain. We have seen senior people from the Food Safety Agency being grilled by a parliamentary select committee and being interviewed by the media.

Considering the disaster that brought the FSA into being was the BSE epidemic it is remarkable that beef products are in question again. Horse meat is eaten in other European countries so this crisis is not so much about safety of food than the way the products are described.

The centre of any retail business is the contracts that it concludes with its customers at the end of every translation. This coupled with the Trades Description Act would seems to indicate that responsibility products sold is the retailers. For major supermarkets like Tesco the responsibility is squarely on their board to ensure that manufacturers meet the requirements of any contracts for supplying them and put in place an audit process to ensure that what is ordered is what is delivered. Tesco have recently announced that they have set up a testing regime to check that there is no horse DNA in any of their meat product.

Independent retailers must be concerned about their supply chain after the announcement by Findus that their beef lasagne was up to 100% horse. So what should you do to ensure that you are meeting your obligations to your customers?

As you are unlikely to be designing, specifying and ordering products directly from a manufacture I think that you should ask your wholesalers & suppliers for a written confirmation that all the products that they supply to you are as described and free from contamination. With this information you can have the confidence that you are meeting the contract obligations to your customers.

Of course if the sensible approach would be for wholesalers, cash and carries and symbol groups take the initiative and provide this confirmation to their retailers without it being requested!