The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has reported that some of the beef lasagne products they tested last week were found to contain up to 100% horsemeat. Catherine Brown, chief executive of the FSA: “This is completely unacceptable”
After the findings were released, on Monday of this week, Findus removed its beef lasagne in sizes 320g, 360g and 500g as a precaution. However, a spokesperson for the company said that they did not think it was a food safety issue.
In a statement to the BBC, Brown said that other companies will now have test their products that contain beef. She said: “In order to get to the bottom of this, we’re going to be requiring every company to test every product line. If we find any other cases, we will pursue our investigations vigorously until we find out what’s happened and put a stop to it.”
In tests carried out by the FSA, out of 18 Findus beef lasagne products, 11 were found to contain between 60% and 100% horsemeat. The lasagnes were produced for Findus by French food company Comigel.
Although there is not a food safety issue with eating horsemeat per se, some horse carcasses might contain a compound call ‘bute’, which is not safe to consume. The FSA said: “We have no evidence to suggest that this is a food safety risk. However, the FSA has ordered Findus to test the lasagne for the veterinary drug phenylbutazone, or ‘bute’. Animals treated with phenylbutazone are not allowed to enter the food chain as [the drug] may pose a risk to human health. We will take whatever action we consider necessary if we discover evidence of criminality or negligence”
Findus beef lasagnes have been distributed to main UK supermarkets and smaller convenience stores, but if anyone has already bought one of the products, they should not eat them but return them to the shop they purchased it from.
In a statement from the Environmental Secretary – Owen Paterson, he advised that the presence of unauthorised ingredients “cannot be tolerated”. He said: “The responsibility for the safety and authenticity of food lies with those who produce it, and who sell or provide it to the final consumer. I know that food producers, retailers and caterers are as concerned as we are at the course of recent events. He added that the government was working closely with businesses to “root out any illegal activity” and enforce regulations.
“Consumers can be confident that we will take whatever action we consider necessary if we discover evidence of criminality or negligence,” he added.
Shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh commented about the scale of the scandal: “This is no longer just a food safety issue but possibly a criminal trade,” she said.
Findus state that all its other products had been tested and were not affected. In a statement Findus said: “We understand this is a very sensitive subject for consumers and we would like to reassure you we have reacted immediately. We do not believe this to be a food safety issue. We are confident that we have fully resolved this supply chain issue. We would like to take this opportunity to apologise to our customers for any inconvenience caused.”
The findings have prompted other supermarket chains Aldi and Tesco, as well as Findus UK, to withdraw some beef products from sale after concerns were raised at their French supplier. Comigel alerted Findus and Aldi that their products “do not conform to specification”. These supermarkets were advised to remove Findus Beef Lasagne and Aldi’s Today’s Special Frozen Beef Lasagne and Today’s Special Frozen Spaghetti Bolognese.
Tesco also decided to withdraw Everyday Value Spaghetti Bolognese.
The Tesco product was produced at the same Comigel site but there was no evidence of contamination, the supermarket said.
This latest controversy comes after horsemeat was found in value burgers by Irish food inspectors, stocked by a number of UK supermarket chains including Tesco, Iceland and Lidl. Since then Asda has withdrawn products supplied by Newry-based Freeza Meats which was found to be storing meat found to contain a high proportion of horse DNA. Two samples were found to contain 80% horsemeat.
In an attempt to halt the inclusion of ‘other’ meat into the food chain, the FSA has said it will co-ordinate a UK-wide survey of beef products to test for the possible presence of horse or pig DNA. It stated that there will be “additional emphasis on brands at the lower end of the market, particularly for burger-type products.”
To this end, 28 local authorities across the UK will take a total of 224 samples, and results will be published in April.
The survey “aims to identify and understand factors that may lead to the presence of meat species that are not labelled as an ingredient, so that this can be explained, eliminated or correctly labelled”.
Source: BBC News