Following the recent discovery that certain supermarket beef burgers were found to contain significant quantities of horsemeat, food retailers across the country have been ordered to test their processed beef products.
The order has come after it emerged that lasagne from a major food manufacturer contained 100% horsemeat.
Earlier this week the company involved coordinated a full withdrawal of affected beef lasagne. All of their other products have been tested and are not affected. Of 18 beef lasagne products tested, 11 contained horsemeat at levels between 60% and 100%.
Don Meredith, Technical Director of Santia Food Safety Services commented:
“Food suppliers have a legal and moral responsibility to provide consumers with food that is safe and meets legal, labelling and religious requirements. The recent escalation finding beef products made wholly of horse meat, and indications of beef products contaminated with pork residues, indicates that some food manufacturers are not meeting these fundamental requirements whether by accidental contamination or fraudulent addition. The food manufacturing sector needs to quickly re-establish confidence with consumers to prove they are meeting their legal and moral obligations.
“Further testing is being carried out, and at this stage it is hoped that these are isolated cases and not the tip of an iceberg. There are many unanswered questions, not least that of how long this has been happening. The longer such questions go unanswered, the larger the dent in public confidence in processed beef products.
“There is currently no evidence to suggest that the problem presents a food safety risk, but tests are now looking for the presence of the veterinary drug phenylbutazone, or ‘bute’, which could pose a risk to health if it entered the food chain. Once again, this demonstrates that traceability is vital – not only does it help to eliminate such incidents from happening, but it also provides the means of identifying the source of the problem.”
The problem came to light when a third-party French supplier informed the company involved that the beef lasagne did not “conform to specification”.
The Chief Executive of the Food Standards Agency Catherine Brown, told the BBC:
“I have to say that that the two cases of gross contamination that we see here indicates that it is highly likely there has been criminal and fraudulent activity involved. We are demanding that food businesses conduct authenticity tests on all beef products, such as beef burgers, meatballs and lasagne, and provide the results to the FSA. The tests will be for the presence of significant levels of horsemeat.”
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