Scientific tests on some beef products found low levels of horse DNA But one offering from Tesco’s Value range had 29% horse meat Company has lost £300m off its market value today
Equine DNA also found in Dunnes Stores, Lidl, Aldi beef products Asda and Co-op remove frozen products as ‘precaution’ Today, fast food giant Burger King revealed it uses same supplier However, Burger King said its meat has not been affected
Irish scientists discovered contaminated burgers in late November But carried out three rounds of tests to ensure data was correct
UK Food Standards Agency launching investigation into the findings PM calls scandal ‘a completely unacceptable state of affairs’ Suppliers in Holland and Spain blamed for contaminated ingredients
Three more supermarkets have started clearing shelves of frozen beefburgers after it emerged they use the same supplier that sold Tesco products containing up to 29 per cent horse meat.
Asda, the Co-op and Sainsbury’s were not among the four retailers found to be selling contaminated food but say they have pulled some of their ranges as a ‘precautionary measure’.
It came as it was revealed horse-tainted beefburgers could have been on the shelves for almost two months after it was first discovered they contained equine meat.
Government scientists in Ireland, where many were produced, found horse DNA in late November, but took until January 11 to step in as they wanted to have three positive rounds of tests.
Most had only small traces but Tesco has cleared its shelves this morning after 29 per cent of the ‘beef’ content of one of its products was actually horse meat.
More than £300million has been wiped from the supermarket giant’s share value as suppliers in the Netherlands and Spain are being blamed for the contaminated ingredients.
Tesco says it does not know exactly how many of its burgers were contaminated or how many it has withdrawn from sale.
Both Asda and Co-op, despite not being implicated, have taken action to withdraw their frozen burgers from the manufacturer at the centre of the scandal, Silvercrest. Asda has pulled products from the shelves and the Co-op two.
A spokesman for Asda said: ‘As soon as we were made aware of the issue we launched a full traceability audit with our supplier. This is still underway. In the meantime as a precaution we have withdrawn a number of frozen burger products from sale’.
The Co-op added: ‘We can confirm that we take two lines of frozen own-brand beefburgers from Silvercrest Foods. Neither of these products have been implicated in this report. However, we are taking this matter very seriously, and, purely as a precaution, we are removing them from sale while tests are being conducted to ensure they have been produced to our strict specifications.’
Sainsbury’s has removed 13 own-brand lines from the shelves as a ‘precautionary measure’.
A spokesman for the supermarket said: ‘Although Sainsbury’s products have not been implicated, as our customers would expect we treat matters like this extremely seriously.
‘All our burgers are made from 100 per cent British beef but as a precautionary measure we are withdrawing those sourced from Dalepak.’
Fast food giant Burger King, which uses ABP/Silvercrest, says it has been told by the supplier none of its products have been affected by the contamination.
However, it has also launched a ‘precautionary’ investigation today.
A Burger King Worldwide spokesman said: ‘Food safety at Burger King restaurants is a top priority. Burger King Worldwide has a comprehensive food safety programme that uses multiple and overlapping controls to oversee its suppliers.
‘Burger King Worldwide is aware of the contaminated beef found in tests conducted by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland.
‘BKW has been given absolute assurance by its supplier ABP/Silvercrest that no Burger King products are affected by the issue.
‘As a precautionary measure to ensure the safety of our guests, the company has taken swift action to further investigate and ensure that no affected product has entered the Burger King system.’
A spokeswoman for rival burger chain McDonald’s said its supply chain has been checked and the fast food outlet is not affected.
A Morrisons spokesman said the company’s beef is 100 per cent British and that it does not source any meat from the three affected sites.
Ireland’s Food Safety Authority told MailOnline they tested burgers from several supermarkets in mid-November, and got results back that some contained horse DNA in late November.
More burgers bought and tested in December were again found to contain horse, so more samples were then sent to Germany for final verification at around Christmas.
These arrived back in Dublin on January 11, when they stepped in, and said the three rounds of tests were needed as this was ‘good science’.
Processing plant, Silvercrest, based in Ireland, which supplies the burgers to UK supermarkets, including Tesco, and is a subsidiary of ABP Foods, said it was pulling products from sale and replacing them with new lines.
ABP said today they would adopt strict DNA testing of its products to prevent a repeat.
The Food Standards Agency in Britain has launched an investigation after a third of burgers from four chains in Britain were contaminated.
During Prime Minister’s Questions, David Cameron told MPs: ‘It is an extremely serious issue. People in our country will have been very concerned to read this morning that when they thought they were buying beef burgers they were buying something with horse meat in it.
‘This is a completely unacceptable state of affairs,’ he added.
‘It is worth making the point that ultimately retailers have to be responsible for what it is they sell and where it comes from.’
Simon Coveney, Ireland’s Agriculture and Food Minister, says the source of the food alert appeared to be companies in the Netherlands and Spain.
‘What seems to have happened here is that the extra ingredient that was added was imported,’ he said.
‘There is no evidence to suggest that Silvercrest knowingly imported ingredients that had horse meat in it.’
Paul Finnerty, chief executive at Silvercrest, said the controversy was extremely disappointing for the company, retailers and consumers.
‘We don’t buy any horse meat, and the product in question from the suppliers, that’s being examined at the moment. It will take two or three days to get to the bottom of that.’
Silvercrest said it had taken about 10 million burgers out of the marketplace as a result of the alert.
It also said the product at the centre of the scare and used as an ingredient in the burger mix was supposed to be a beef product rather than rusk, onion or other non-beef bulking agent.
Silvercrest said today: ‘Although the products pose no risk to public health, Silvercrest has taken immediate action to isolate, withdraw and replace all suspect product.
‘Silvercrest has never purchased or traded in equine product and has launched a full-scale investigation into two continental European third party suppliers who are the suspected source of the product in question.’
The affected burgers were made at two sites in Ireland and one in North Yorkshire owned by Dalepak Foods.
They were produced by Liffey Meats alongside Silvercrest and the UK plant, Dalepak Hambleton.
Speaking on ITV’s Daybreak this morning, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, said: ‘There is no health risk from this but we are right to be very concerned, obviously, if any food is sold which is different to what the label says, then that’s a matter of very great concern and I know that the Food Standards Agency are looking into this very, very carefully indeed.’
The highest level of horse meat was found in Tesco’s Everyday Value beefburgers but traces were also detected in its frozen quarter pounders.
Last night, the store issued an apology and said the suspect burgers had been withdrawn. It is likely however that thousands have been eaten, with many more still stored in home freezers.
The Food Standards Agency is set to meet today to discuss the problem and said an investigation began yesterday into the findings.
The revelations emerged following checks by Irish food safety experts.
Tesco confirmed the burgers had been on sale in the UK. Iceland said it has ‘withdrawn from sale the two own-brand quarter pounder burger lines implicated in the study’.
Other products that tested positive for horse DNA included Aldi’s Oakhurst Beef Burgers and Lidl’s Moordale Beef Burgers.
Aldi said its product was on sale only in Ireland and had been withdrawn.
The DNA tests on 27 burgers showed very low levels of horse meat in nine and a much higher level in Tesco’s value product.
Traces were also detected in batches of raw ingredients, including some imported from The Netherlands and Spain.
It is not illegal to buy or sell horse meat in the UK, but it is illegal not to declare every ingredient on food labels.
Tim Smith, Tesco’s technical director and a former head of the Food Standards Agency, said: ‘We immediately withdrew from sale all products from the supplier in question.
‘We are working with the authorities in Ireland and the UK, and with the supplier concerned, to urgently understand how this has happened and how to ensure it does not happen again.’
Tesco has stopped taking any products from the factory involved until the investigation has been completed.
Mr Smith added: ‘The safety and quality of our food is of the highest importance to Tesco. We will not tolerate any compromise in the quality of the food we sell.
‘The presence of illegal meat in our products is extremely serious. Our customers have the right to expect that food they buy is produced to the highest standards.
‘We understand that many of our customers will be concerned by this news and we apologise sincerely for any distress.’
Ian Bell, director of the national farming charity Addington Fund said there are tight controls on meat at each stage in production from the farm to the supermarket.
On British meat processes, he said: ‘I’m 99.99% sure the consumer should have every confidence in British meat.
‘Every animal has an individual ear tag, cattle have passports, you cannot move a beast from a farm to a market or a slaughterhouse without a passport.
‘You get to an abattoir and you have a meat inspector, so everything is inspected for any abnormalities. So there is a rigorous control all the way through.‘
However, Mr Bell did suggest there could be tighter controls on imported meat. ‘The one aspect that was highlighted to me during foot and mouth was the amount of illegally imported meat – if there’s a rogue issue that is it. There is a lot of meat still being bought illegally in the country,’ he claimed.
Professor Chris Elliott, director of the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast, said the substitution of low quality, low value materials for their authentic counterparts has plagued food production for centuries.
‘As we are now in a global food supply chain the chances of such events occurring have increased markedly,’ he said.
‘While retailers operate wide-ranging audit systems to verify that their supply chains are robust, there must be scientific verification that these systems are working.’
Barry Gardiner, who sits on the Commons food, environment and rural affairs committee, called for an immediate inquiry.
The Labour MP said it looked as if there had been ‘fraud, misrepresentation and incompetence’ at the highest levels.
‘Big companies like Iceland and Tesco are responsible for their supply chain and for verifying whether their suppliers are giving them what they should be delivered,’ he added. ‘It is abhorrent that the suppliers appear to have adulterated the burgers in this way, but these big companies’ buyers are responsible to the public.
‘You expect what is on the label is what you get, and a beef burger is not a horse burger. Most people would be horrified to find they have been eating horse.’
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland, which carried out the tests, is working with the Irish Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, and the processing plants and retailers involved.
Professor Alan Reilly, chief executive of the FSAI, said there was no good explanation for the inclusion of horse meat in the burgers. He said the use of pig meat would also be upsetting for religious groups such as Muslims and Jews.
‘The products we have identified as containing horse DNA and/or pig DNA do not pose any food safety risk and consumers should not be worried,’ he added. ‘Consumers who have purchased any of the implicated products can return them.
‘Whilst there is a plausible explanation for the presence of pig DNA in these products due to the fact that meat from different animals is processed in the same meat plants, there is no clear explanation at this time for the presence of horse DNA in products emanating from meat plants that do not use horse meat in their production process.
‘We are working with the meat processing plants the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and the Marine to find out how horse DNA could have found its way into these products.
‘Likewise, for some religious groups or people who abstain from eating pig meat, the presence of traces of pig DNA is unacceptable.’
Lidl said it had taken the decision to remove all implicated products from sale pending a full investigation. ‘A refund will be provided to customers who wish to return affected products,’ said a spokesman.
Aldi said it was conducting its own investigation.
‘We have sought information from one supplier, Silvercrest, which is dealing directly with the FSAI on the issue that has been raised,’ the company said.
No one from Dalepak could comment.
Marks & Spencer ‘Simply M&S beefburgers’ were the only brand found by the FSAI to contain neither pork nor horse and were 100 per cent beef.
Prof Chris Elliott, Director of the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast, said: ‘The current information suggests that this is an issue about food integrity and not safety, thankfully.
‘The substitution of low quality, low value materials for the true foodstuff has plagued food production for centuries. As we are now in a global food supply chain the changes of such events occurring have increased markedly. ‘
Mary Creagh MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said: ‘Consumers will be rightly concerned by this news. People should be able to go into the supermarket and be confident that what that they are buying for their families is legal and safe.
‘There are serious questions for the Government to answer about what happened and why it wasn’t detected by British food safety authorities.’