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Tesco posts fall in first quarter sales amid consumer distaste over horsemeat scandal

LONDON – Tesco, Britain’s largest retailer by revenue, saw sales drop 1 per cent at its U.K. stores amid consumer distaste over the horsemeat scandal.

Chief Executive Philip Clarke says there was a discernible impact on frozen and chilled convenience food sales “due to the customer response to equine DNA being detected in four products.”

Internationally, sales dropped 4.6 per cent. The figures cover stores that have been open for at least a year and exclude gasoline sales.

Richard Hunter, the head of equities at Hargreaves Lansdown Stockbrokers, says the weakness in international operations is a concern. But on the positive side, customers are responding well to the revamp of stores.

Since becoming CEO in 2011, Clarke has sought to improve the U.K. business and hire more staff, particularly in fresh food departments.