Saturday, February 2, 2013

Burger King's Mane Problem Is Failing to Reassure Worldwide Customers

For two weeks, Burger King insisted its burgers were 100% beef until its spokesperson was too horse to speak. Until yesterday, that is, when the company confessed that it had been telling a whopper all along. The company blames a supplier, admits no responsibility for ensuring the integrity of its meat, and so far ignores the crisis on its website. No bull.
"Burger King has tonight admitted that it has been selling burgers and Whoppers (in the United Kingdom) containing horsemeat despite two weeks of denials. The fast food chain, which has more than 500 UK outlets, had earlier given a series of ‘absolute assurances’ that its products were not involved.
"However, new tests have revealed these guarantees were incorrect in a revelation that threatens to destroy the trust of customers. It also raises serious questions about whether the food company, which sells around one million burgers a week in the UK, has any good idea about what goes into its products."  (

The contaminated burgers were made by the Irish-based processing company Silvercrest, which is part the ABP Foods Group. Burger King now is importing tens of thousands of burgers from suppliers in Germany and Italy in order to meet demand at its UK outlets.

Burger King's denials were made in spite of the knowledge of officials that Silvercrest has been using a series of non-approved ingredients in burgers for a range of household name brands since at least last May. These included horse meat off-cuts that were imported in large frozen blocks from Poland.

Burger King yesterday admitted, ‘Four samples recently taken from the Silvercrest plant have shown the presence of very small trace levels of equine DNA. Within the last 36 hours, we have established that Silvercrest used a small percentage of beef imported from a non-approved supplier in Poland. They promised to deliver 100% British and Irish beef patties and have not done so. This is a clear violation of our specifications, and we have terminated our relationship with them."

Burger King vice president Diego Beamonte  said, "We are deeply troubled by the findings of our investigation and apologise to our guests, who trust us to source only the highest quality 100per cent beef burgers. Our supplier has failed us and in turn we have failed you. We are committed to ensuring that this does not happen again. We will dedicate ourselves to determining what lessons can be learned and what additional measures, including DNA testing and enhanced traceability controls, can be taken to ensure that we continue to provide you with the quality products you expect from us."

Good quotes. But I would ask Burger King why statements such as this aren't posted on its website. ( Overlooking this communications medium denies Burger King of the opportunity to tell customers that it has made changes in its meat suppliers. Maybe worse is that there isn't any reassurance to customers in other countries that the horse meat problem is limited to the UK and it guarantees its burgers are 100% beef elsewhere.

Weak communications and retracted innocent pleas usually take a toll. Burger King hasn't escaped skepticism. "Jeanette Longfield, of the campaigning food and health group, Sustain, has condemned Burger King’s handling of the problem.
'Burger King’s approach has been very shabby,’ she said.  'It really is not the open, honest and transparent way that we expect a major food company to treat its customers.’"

Silvercrest, has taken a different approach from Burger King's. Go to its website and a popup statement explains what the company is doing to ensure the quality of its product in the future:

"We understand their decision to stop sourcing from Silvercrest Foods but also welcome their decision to continue sourcing fresh beef from other ABP companies. The ABP Food Group has developed a very strong business - based on trust. We have let our customers down in this incident and we apologise for this.

"Paul Finnerty, ABP Food Group CEO said: “We have learnt important lessons from this incident and we are determined to ensure that this never happens again.”

 "We have already implemented total management change at the Silvercrest facility – which remains closed. We also have effected a Group Re-organisation to better manage our Convenience foods business. We have put in place new procedures to audit all our third party suppliers. We have also established comprehensive DNA testing procedures – we will become an industry leader in this area.

"We are proud of our excellent reputation for quality and service throughout Europe and are determined not to allow the Silvercrest incident overshadow what is a great business. We thank our customers for their continued support at this time."  (

Consumers looking for an inexpensive burger have choices. Burger King needs to differentiate itself in positive ways, not negative. Otherwise, customers will buy elsewhere, according to the latest Gallop Poll.

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