The usual stance adopted by big businesses when something goes wrong is to lay low and say nothing. I think that they do this because (a) saying something particularly when being aggressively interviewed will simply make the public perception of the big business worse than it is already (b) hoping that shortly the media attention will die down and saying anything will simply serve to keep up the media attention and (c) eventually the matter may be disposed of my an insincere apology.
The big supermarkets (with the notable exception of Morrisons) have laid low and said nothing about the scandal of them selling horse meat as beef. They have nothing to say because it is quite clear that they are responsible. This is not a question of trust, regulation or systems. Some people blame the regulator, others blame the government, others blame the opposition and some blame the people who wanted cheap food, but in truth where a business sells something by description the law clearly states that the goods must correspond with the description.
This has been the law of England for hundreds of years and is at present codified in Section 13 of the Sale of Goods Act 1979. The wording of the section is quite straightforward:-
“Where there is a contract for the sale of goods by description, there is an implied that the goods will correspond with the description.”
So it is clear that some of the supermarkets have sold many goods which they described as containing “100%” beef” which were not 100% beef. Horse meat is not beef. Now the weasel words of advertising and marketing may enable 100% beef to include mechanically recovered meat, fat, gristle and even testicles, but they certainly do not include by any stretch of the imagination horse meat.
So all those supermarkets that have sold, for example, lasagna as containing “100% beef” are in breach of contract with their customers who have bought a product that did not comply with its description.
A breach of contract enables the party not in breach (in this case the ordinary customer) to damages. Each customer is certainly entitled to nominal damages and there may be special cases where the nominal damages may be insufficient to remedy the wrong.
I await with interest to learn what the supermarkets propose to do about compensating their customers for the breach of the implied term in that they sold goods that did not comply with their description.