VEVEY, Switzerland (Reuters) - Nestle SA NESN.VX said a growing scandal in Europe over the use of horsemeat in products labeled as beef hurts the whole industry even though the world’s biggest food company is not directly affected.
“It has affected us because the whole industry is in question again,” Chief Executive Paul Bulcke told a news conference after Nestle published 2012 results. “This is bad for so many people working hard to give safe and good food.”
The British unit of frozen foods group Findus FODVT.UL began recalling its beef lasagne last week on advice from French supplier Comigel, sparking questions about the safety of the European food supply chain.
Nestle, which sold the rights to the Findus brand in most of Europe in 2000 but retained them in Switzerland, launched a campaign this week to reassure consumers that Swiss Findus products were only made from Swiss beef.
“Everything under our labels is not affected,” Bulcke said, adding that Nestle had intensified checks on its suppliers in the wake of the scandal.
In recent years Nestle has sought to shift away from lower-margin products like frozen food towards more profitable “nutrition, health and wellness” brands although prepared dishes and cooking aids still contributed 15 percent to 2012 sales.
Bulcke said Nestle had invested heavily in recent years in systems to monitor its suppliers.
“We know that in a world that is so interconnected as it is today, traceability is of utmost importance for creating that relationship of trust,” he said. “With a push of a button we know where things come from.”
Editing by David Holmes and Helen Massy-Beresford