Notts councils: 'We are not to blame for horse meat scandal'
COUNCILS in Notts have hit back after the boss of Iceland supermarkets blamed local authorities for the horse meat scandal.
Malcolm Walker, chief executive of Iceland, said supermarkets were not at fault for the contamination, but instead blamed councils that gave school contracts to the cheapest food suppliers.
However, Nottingham City and Notts County Councils have confirmed that their joint contract for meat supply, agreed in 2010, was not awarded to the cheapest tender.
City council leader Jon Collins said: "It's a shame that Iceland has sought to lay the blame for this food scare at the door of local councils. The facts speak for themselves – Nottingham city and county councils decided against a cheaper supplier so that we could buy locally and get a higher quality of supply."
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Tim Gregory, corporate director, environment and resources, at the county council, said: "When buying any goods or services, our aim is always to try and get the best possible value for money for Notts taxpayers but that should not be at the expense of quality and certainly never to the detriment of public safety or confidence.
"Our contract to supply meat is a good example of where we have been able to secure a good deal for taxpayers through the greater 'buying power' of joining forces with the city council, whilst building in safeguards which meant that equal consideration was given to quality assurance and ability to supply as it was to securing the lowest price."
Four companies tendered for the contract to supply the vast majority of fresh meat to the councils as part of a four-year agreement, with each bid scrutinised on price, quality and ability to supply. Maloney's Butchers, of Tuxford, Notts, was selected after scoring higher on quality assurance than the cheapest bidder.
Mr Walker had claimed that "local authorities award contracts (for food) based purely on one thing – price".
He said: "If we're going to blame somebody, let's start with local authorities because there's a whole side to this industry which is invisible. That's the catering industry. Schools, hospitals – it's massive business for cheap food and local authorities award contracts based purely on one thing: price.
"So, if you're looking to blame somebody who's driving down food quality, it's invisible. It's schools, it's hospitals, it's prisons, it's local authorities who are driving this down."
Yesterday, it emerged that Environment Secretary Owen Paterson had met supermarkets and food retail bodies to hear how they planned to restore the confidence of shoppers. Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's and Morrisons were among those who met Mr Paterson.
The British Retail Consortium said the supermarkets agreed they must restore "consumer confidence."