UAE grocers probe frozen food amid horsemeat scandal

By Claire Valdini, Arabian Business

Spinneys+1Fine Fare Food Market, which operates Spinneys and Waitrose supermarkets in the UAE, is running DNA tests on its frozen beef products after a Europe-wide food scandal revealed that some frozen beef burgers contain horsemeat.

Both supermarkets said that while all of their fresh beef products are 100 percent beef, they will run DNA tests on frozen beef items to reassure customers.

“As a premium supermarket with food safety at our absolute core… we are going to run our own DNA tests on our frozen products just to be sure,” said Colette Shannon, spokesperson at Spinneys.

“We process our own fresh beef burgers in our facility in Jebel Ali and that has just been awarded ISO22000, which is an internationally recognised quality standard. It’s a food management system so everything is tracked [meaning] that all of our fresh meat is 100 percent traceable,” she added.

The decision to run the tests comes in the wake of an expanding European food scandal that has exposed flawed food safety controls. Routine tests by Irish authorities last month discovered horsemeat in beef burgers stocked in some of the UK’s largest retailers.

Concerns have since grown after a number of British retailers were forced to withdraw their meat products after tests revealed that some beef products contained as much as 100 percent horsemeat.

Investigations into food safety have implicated companies and retailers across Europe. Waitrose in Britain became the latest supermarket to withdraw a meat product after tests revealed pork in its own-branded beef meatballs.

A spokesperson for Waitrose in Dubai said while it can guarantee all of its fresh meat products are 100 percent beef, it will also run DNA tests on frozen products.

“We are running DNA tests [on frozen products] because it is very important that if our customers are concerned we reassure them,” Waitrose said.

All food items stocked in the UAE must be approved by authorities before permission is granted for them to be sold. Spinneys and Waitrose said that none of the companies that supply frozen beef products they stock have been implicated in the European beef scandal.