Whitbread vows to take action over horsemeat scandal

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Beefeater and Costa owner Whitbread has promised to track ingredients from “field to fork” after being dragged into the horsemeat scandal earlier this month.

The group, which also owns the Brewers Fayre and Premier Inn chains, withdrew lasagne and beef burger products from its menus following the discovery of equine DNA on 14 February.

In the wake of an investigation into its meat supply chain, Whitbread said it was taking measures such as the extension of independent batch testing on processed meat and the requirement for certification from meat suppliers.

The firm is also planning a new system of traceability to include a clear tracking of ingredients from “field to fork”.

It added: “We believe that a wholesale change is required to the way the supply chain is regulated and a tougher regime needs to be put in place.”

The update came as Whitbread announced like-for-like sales growth of 2.7 per cent in the 11 weeks to 14 February, down from 3.3 per cent in the previous quarter, as poor weather last month affected its restaurants business.

But Whitbread said Costa “continued to excel”, with like-for-like sales up 5.5 per cent.

Chief executive Andy Harrison said: “We see no change to market conditions, although we expect a more competitive environment.”

Richard Hunter, head of equities at Hargreaves Lansdown Stockbrokers, said: “There was a slight disappointment in the weather-affected restaurant business, and the generally competitive nature of the areas in which Whitbread operates will continue to provide challenges.”