LONDON – The scandal of horse meat being labeled and sold as beef is “unforgivable,” said Paul Bulcke, chief executive officer of Nestle, S.A., Vevey, Switzerland. Bulcke addressed the scandal in a speech Feb. 25 in the United Kingdom.

“The horse meat issue affects the entire industry,” he said. “Widespread fraud is being committed by a few across Europe. I understand that many consumers and many of you in the industry feel misled, I feel the same.

“The success of the food industry in general, and of companies such as Nestle, is built on trust. Trust is our most important asset and we should all work hard not to lose it.

“What our industry is facing today is a trust issue. It is wrong and unacceptable that a minority has put our entire industry and all the people involved in it in such a bad light.”

Bulcke pointed out that while the food industry is often heavily criticized, it has played an important role in the global development of society in feeding millions of people with safe and nutritious products.

“Our industry has made major progress over the years,” he said. “Food has never been safer and yet, the perception is sometimes the opposite. But the current issue is not a food safety issue, it is a trust issue.”

Bulcke made his comments as the keynote speaker at the City Food Lecture, which is given every year by a leading figure in the food business who is invited to speak about the issues they regard as most important in shaping the way food is produced, distributed, marketed, sold and consumed.