UK: 100% horse meat prompts FSA to order testing of processed beef

By Line Elise Svanevik –

findusThe Food Standards Agency (FSA) has ordered authenticity testing on all processed beef products after it was revealed that Findus found up to 100% horse meat in its beef lasagnes.

The FSA stated that Findus UK tested 18 beef lasagnes of which 11 were contaminated with between 60% and 100% horse meat.

Although the FSA claimed there was no evidence to suggest a food safety risk, Findus has been ordered to test its lasagnes for bute, the anti-inflammatory veterinary drug used to treat lame horses.

Bute is banned from the food chain due to a risk of causing a serious blood disorder, aplastic anaemia. According to the FSA: “Bute was banned from use in humans after it was found that about one person in 30,000 recipients suffered a serious side effect.”

Chief executive of the FSA Catherine Brown stated: “Following our investigations into Findus products, the FSA is now requiring a more robust response from the food industry in order to demonstrate that the food it sells and serves is what it says it is on the label.

“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 horse meat,’ she added.

In a statement released last night, Findus confirmed that tests revealed some beef lasagnes contained horse meat. It said: “We understand this it 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.”

It further stated that the contaminated lasagne was produced by third party supplier.

Brown confirmed speculations that criminal activity could be involved and told the BBC: “This is an appalling situation. I have to say that the two cases of gross contamination that we see here indicate that it is highly likely there has been criminal and fraudulent activity involved.”

The British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) said this morning that it deplored the recent incidents of “gross contamination” of processed meat products.

However it added: “It is important to distinguish between gross adulteration of products – which may involve illegal behaviour – and incidents where very powerful DNA tests detect low trace levels of unwanted and unintended material.”

The organisation said it was co-operating with the FSA to establish the facts behind the contamination and deal with the issues.

“The BMPA has urged its members to be vigilant, and to review their raw material and ingredients sourcing procedures in order to ensure that they meet their responsibilities to produce safe food and to describe and label their products accurately,” it said.

All companies must have completed contamination tests on processed beef products by next Friday.