Fiona East, partner, Weightmans LLP

Photography by Will G

Fiona East, partner at Weightmans LLP writes in about the recent horse meat scandal involving major high street names and whether or not suppliers and manufacturers will be blamed.

As supermarket chains clear their shelves of burgers contaminated with horse meat, will they look to their suppliers and manufacturers to compensate them for their losses?

Consumers are being reassured that there is no risk to health – raising the query therefore if the product is ‘defective’ – but some may claim for damages after purchasing the contaminated burgers, which could extend to psychological injury, as a result of breach of contract – the burgers have failed to match their expectations and are not of satisfactory quality. Liability is strict under the Sale of Goods Act.

The consumer will turn to the supermarket who will simply pass claims onto their suppliers and manufacturers, relying on likely contractual indemnities. Manufacturers need to scrutinise their quality control, governance, supply chain contracts and auditing over their own suppliers in an effort to avoid claims in negligence for their failure to have taken reasonable care in the manufacture of their food.

The supermarket chains will undoubtedly have robust contracts in place, which food manufacturers should look at now. The cost to the supermarkets, which have their brand and reputation to protect, will be difficult to evaluate.