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Supply Chain Accountability & Tesco: A Horseburger with Fries, Please!

Tesco – the large British supermarket – recently had a nightmare come true: it turns out their hamburger meat was actually mixed with horse meat. To the equine loving British public, the mistake is almost tantamount to eating people, and market share dropped dramatically. The problem stemmed from a lack of control and oversight in the supply chain of the meat to market, and that is certainly something that the company must investigate if it hopes to recover from this grave mistake. This article by Elaine Cohen explains how the root of the problem is a lack of perceived accountability: Tesco didn’t feel (at the time) that they needed to be responsible for ensuring their supply chain was safe and sourced correctly. The error wasn’t even caught by Tesco itself, but rather the Food Safety Authority of Ireland. As with many quality errors, Cohen suggests that one reason for the horse meat mistake may be greed: One possibility is that Tesco's supplier decided to cut costs in order to take a bigger profit, expecting no one would find out. Another possibility is that Tesco pressured suppliers to such an extent for low pricing on “Everyday Value Burgers,” that suppliers responded by using lower-cost raw materials and circumventing known guidelines. Big buyer purchasing practices have often been cited as the cause of supplier non-compliance in outsourced supply chains in different sectors. Even if Tesco cleans up its supply chain, the reputational damage is done. Facebook posts from angry customers suggest as much, and with the size of the mistake, it’s clear that there was at least some people involved in the supply chain who were aware of the error and were complicit. So the lesson to learn here is simply this: if you are in charge of the supply chain, you’re responsible for every point that supply chain touches.

About Matthew Kabik

Matthew Kabik is the former Editor of Computer Aid's Accelerating IT Success. He worked at Computer Aid, Inc. from 2008 to 2014 in the Harrisburg offices, where he was a copywriter, swordsman, social media consultant, and trainer before moving into editorial.

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