Local suppliers exploit horse meat scandal
Farm shops and traditional butchers in the West Country have been quick to highlight the difference of buying burgers and meat from local sources rather than the supermarkets, as the scandal of horse meat ending up in beefburgers reached the top yesterday.
Prime Minister David Cameron branded it a ‘completely unacceptable state of affairs’, and said the UK’s Food Standards Agency was launching its own inquiry.
Traces of horse meat, as well as pork, was discovered in beefburgers on sale, at first in Ireland, but then also in supermarkets in the UK.
Traces of horse meat have been found in burgers on sale in some of the UK and Ireland’s busiest supermarkets, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland said.
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Scientific tests on beef products sold in Tesco, Lidl, Aldi, Iceland and Dunnes Stores uncovered low levels of the animal’s DNA. A total of 27 products were tested, with ten of them containing horse DNA and 23 pig DNA. Horse meat accounted for approximately 29 per cent of the meat content in one sample from Tesco.
Professor Alan Reilly, chief executive of the FSAI, said there was no health risk but also no reasonable explanation for horse meat to be found.
He said: “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. While 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.
“In Ireland, it is not in our culture to eat horse meat and therefore, we do not expect to find it in a burger.”
The retailers have told food safety chiefs they are removing all implicated products from their shelves.
Yesterday, Mr Cameron told MPs he ordered the FSA investigation into the ‘extremely disturbing’ case. “This is a completely unacceptable state of affairs,” he said. “They will be meeting retailers and processors this afternoon. They will be working with them to investigate the supply chain. But it is worth making the point that ultimately retailers have to be responsible for what they sell and where it has come from.”
Last night, it appeared likely that the beefburgers made partly from horse meat had originated in Europe. The UK’s Food Standards Agency said it had launched its own inquiry.
“The FSA has been in contact overnight with the retailers and producers named in the FSAI survey and has called a meeting this afternoon with a wider range of food industry representatives to discover the extent of the potential problem and to investigate how this contamination might have occurred,” it said in a statement.
It emerged later yesterday that the ABP Food Group, one of Europe’s biggest suppliers and processors, was being investigated by the authorities over the horse meat controversy.
Two of its subsidiaries, Silvercrest Foods in Ireland and Dalepak Hambleton in Yorkshire, supplied beef burgers with traces of equine DNA to supermarkets, including one product classed as 29 per cent horse. An ABP spokesman said: “It is vital that the integrity of the supply chain is assured and we are committed to restoring consumer confidence.”
Meanwhile, butchers across the West were advertising ‘horse-free’ burgers in an attempt to highlight the differences between locally-sourced meat and supermarket chain produce.
Wiltshire cookery expert Androulla Derbyshire, from Marlborough-based Culinary Capers, took the opportunity to publish a recipe for burgers to be made at home.
“One of the best ways to ensure you’re eating the best quality food is to buy from a reputable butcher and cook from scratch,” she said.