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Food trade 'to restore confidence'
The food retail industry is "absolutely determined" to restore confidence in its products following the horse meat scandal and is expected to publish the remainder of its test results on beef products this week, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has said.
Mr Paterson spoke after meeting representatives from Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's and Morrisons at Westminster, along with the Institute of Grocery Distribution and the Food and Drink Federation.
He said he hoped consumers took some reassurance that 99% of the products already tested were clear of horse DNA.
"The industry today committed to work absolutely as hard as they can to get out the remainder of the results by this Friday and they will be announced by the FSA (Food Standards Agency)," Mr Paterson told Sky News. "Some may be completed the following week considering the pressure there is on laboratory capacity."
The Environment Secretary said he would meet industry figures regularly to ensure consumers were getting sound products. "There was absolute determination in the industry to restore confidence in their products and I am pleased to say we look forward to meeting on a regular basis to absolutely make it clear that when consumers buy a product, they get what they bought," he said.
The head of the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said laboratories were working "flat out" to get the test results completed. Helen Dickinson, the BRC's director general, said: "The labs are working flat out and our members are confident that the vast majority of testing will be completed by Friday.
"We were very pleased that the Secretary of State recognised the hard work of retailers in progressing their testing programmes so quickly. Retailers take their responsibilities very seriously and are doing everything they can to maintain consumer confidence and increase surveillance."
A Sainsbury's spokeswoman said: "The meeting was productive and shows how the industry is pulling together to tackle the issues with Government and the FSA."
Chancellor George Osborne later encouraged consumers to choose British beef. He told ITV's The Agenda: "It's about trust. It's about people eating what they think they are eating. That's why people's trust has been so undermined in the last few weeks.
"I think lots of people have been surprised that what you buy in your British supermarket comes from a Romanian abattoir, packaged in Luxembourg. I don't think people realised how international the food business was. I guess just eating British beef might be the solution to this problem."