Revisiting the European horsemeat scandal: the role of power asymmetry in the food supply chain crisis

Nnamdi O. Madichie*, Fred A. Yamoah

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


This study explores the role of power asymmetry in the food supply chain, especially in relation to the channel conflict, and ultimate breakdown that culminated in the infamous European horsemeat scandal across Europe. Drawing upon the power‐dependency, and to some extent, social exchange theory, the study posits that mutual dependence between single supplier–multiple buyer relationships where major retailers are the weaker partners, may require a revisitation of risk management practices in that sector. In addition to the fraudulent and unethical practices established from media reporting on the horsemeat scandal, the study argues that the power asymmetry/imbalance may have contributed to a supplier culture that tolerated the unethical decision making leading to the horsemeat scandal. Based on an extensive review of secondary data sources comprising media reports on the scandal and a review of the academic literature on power dependency and social exchange theories, the study attempts to map out the root of the crisis, how to forestall future recurrence, and the managerial and policy implications of these.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)663-675
Number of pages13
JournalThunderbird International Business Review
Issue number6
Early online date27 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - 18 Oct 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Buyer-supplier relationships
  • Food supply chains
  • Horsemeat scandal
  • Power asymmetry

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