Thai Union Group – that’s John West – facing supermarket bans

UnknownOther supermarkets look set to follow Tesco’s example in banning John West tuna products.

John West, owned by the Thai Union Group, has broken its promise to use sustainable fishing methods for at least half its products by 2014, and 100% by 2017. In reality only 2% of its tuna is caught sustainably.

Tesco threatened to pull its products last year and have recently re-confirmed that it would remove most of its products within weeks from its shelves. The supermarket said “it had decided to delist a number of core John West lines” after it reviewed its sustainable fishing policy.

Now Sainsbury’s and Waitrose have joined the fray. Sainsbury’s suggested that it would take action if John West didn’t improve its practices by 2018. A spokesman said “we’re the UK’s leading retailer of sustainable fish and we expect our suppliers to take a responsible approach to sourcing“.

Waitrose has set a tighter deadline and has told John West that all its canned tuna must be caught by pole and line or Marine Stewardship Council certified by the end of next year. All its own-brand tuna already meet this standard.

Morrisons is not following suit and says it has no plans to review its contract with John West – shame on them – and the Co-op has made no comment.

The Thai company has issued the usual corporate waffle about Tesco’s action being part of their cost reduction strategy (and of course nothing to do with fishing methods).

They also say they are working with the WWF  “to ensure all our products are on the path to the Marine Stewardship Council certification by the end of the initial phase of the partnership in 2018“.

Again more corporate-speak. They only say “they will be on the path” not actually changing anything. It could be a long and winding road but commercial pressure may force them to change eventually.

btw If you thought you were buying tuna from a UK company think again John West is no longer Scottish but Thai owned. Similarly Princes, the tinned salmon company which also sells well-know soup brands, is no longer just a Liverpool company but owned by Mitsubishi. That’s globalisation for you.

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How well does your supermarket treat its suppliers?

custom_text_delivery_truck_13837Tesco, Iceland, and Morrisons are the worst of the big supermarkets when it comes to dealing with their suppliers.

That’s according to a confidential survey carried out for the Groceries Code Adjudictor.

Aldi, Waitrose , and Marks and Spencer received top marks for adhering to best practice on things like prompt payment and handling complaints.

The survey report describes a culture of fear among suppliers many of whom feel they have to accept bullying tactics from supermarket buyers for fear of retribution.

Overall  last year 70% of suppliers had been treated in ways that breached the industry’s code, a drop from 79% the previous year.

Almost 10% more, at 47%, were willing to complain about issues like late payments, having to pay over the odds for packaging specified by the supermarket, demands for lump sums, and penalties for trivial complaints from shoppers.

There is a slow a problem with what is called “drop and drive” where suppliers’ consignments aren’t receipted properly leading to disputes over payment.

The majority don’t complain because they fear retribution and don’t have the confidence that the adjudicator will maintain confidentiality.

The industry adjudicator, Christine Tacon, can levy fines of up to 1% of UK turnover. Her first target was Tesco where it was found that they had booked millions of pounds profit  for in-store marketing and seasonal promotions and which led to a Serious Fraud Office investigation.

The Times asked supermarkets for a response.

Tesco said “Suppliers are at the heart of our business and we’ve been working with them to change the way in which we work together“.

Morrisons said “We are listening to the information from the survey although we don’t believe it reflects the generally positive nature of our relationships with our suppliers”.

Iceland declined to comment.

Suppliers who say supermarkets fail to meet code of conduct (YouGov survey)

  1. Tesco 39%
  2. Iceland 30%
  3. Morrisons 30%
  4. Co-op 25%
  5. Asda 15%
  6. Waitrose 12%
  7. Lidl 11%
  8. M & S 10%
  9. Sainsbury’s 9%
  10. Aldi 6%

See other posts about supermarkets and chickens, wines, prices, and junk food

First posted in June 2015

Supermarkets in UK still selling contaminated chickens

Despite attempts by the Food Standards Agency to “name and shame” supermarkets there has been no reduction in chickens heavily contaminated with campylobacter, a major source of food poisoning causing 100 deaths a year.

In fact the proportion of heavily contaminated chickens has increased overall from 17% to 21%.

Asda has the worst record with almost 30% of its chickens having more than1,000 campylobacter bacteria per gram. Asda said that one of its chicken suppliers, Faccenda Foods, would start blasting birds with steam and ultrasound which can reduce the bacteria by 80%. However this process will only apply to 30% of Asda’s chickens so you’re playing Russian roulette when you buy a chicken from Asda.

The FSA said Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, The Co-op, and Waitrose had produced plans to reduce the problem and shared some results with the agency unlike Tesco and Sainsbury.

The results over the last year for heavily contaminated chicken were:

  • Asda 29.7%
  • Morrisons 22%
  • Co-op 19.1%
  • Waitrose 18.4%
  • M & S 17.4%
  • Sainsbury’s 16.4%
  • Tesco 12%

Increasingly chickens are being sold in bags which reduces the need to wash the chicken (which can spread the bacteria) or touch the skin with your hands.

No supermarket yet meets the standard agreed in 2010 of less than 10% of chickens having high levels of bacterial contamination.

See previous posts here