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4pm CET Horse Meat update

Food safety meetings seek horse meat clarity

By Joe Whitworth , 15-Feb-2013
Last updated on 15-Feb-2013 at 16:35 GMT

The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) has revealed it has nearly a thousand more tests to conduct but so far has not found any new cases of horse meat in beef products.

Meanwhile, an EU meeting held today backed earlier proposols to ensure the reinforcement of DNA and phenylbutazone (bute) tests and clearer labelling.

The FSA said as of 10am GMT today 29 samples out of 2,501 had tested positive for containing undeclared horse meat at or above a level of 1% but all these related to products that have already been reported.

It said almost 99% were negative for the presence of horse DNA but at least 950 tests are still in progress on raw ingredients and final products.

Meanwhile, the Standing Committee of the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCoFCAH) endorsed a plan proposed on Wednesday to establish the presence of unlabelled horse meat in foods.

The plan outlines controls of foods destined for the consumer and marketed as containing beef to detect the presence of unlabelled horse meat.

Under current EU rules, the name of foods which only suggest the presence of beef meat where other species of meat are present, is misleading and breaching the legislation.

The plan aims for testing for phenylbutazone (bute) residues in one sample for every 50 tons of horse meat with Member States carrying out a minimum of five tests.  

The FSA revealed yesterday that eight of 206 horse carcasses tested for bute between 30 January and 7 February 2013 were positive and six were sent to France and potentially entered the food chain.

Last week the agency ordered companies to test their beef products after it found beef lasagne from Findus contained between 60-100% of horse meat and products tested included beef burgers, meatballs and lasagne with a full analysis expected by April.

Greencore and Asda

Greencore is the latest firm to be caught up in the scandal, confirming that traces of horse DNA has been found in Asda’s Chosen By You 350g Beef Bolognese sauce, supplied by the company.

Asda also recalled 600g Beef Broth soup, 500g Meat Feast Pasta sauce and 400g Chilli Con Carne soup as a precautionary measure.

The sauce is manufactured at a facility in Bristol and the meat was supplied by ABP Food Group’s Nenagh plant in County Tipperary, Ireland.

Damian McNeela, Panmure analyst, said: “Clearly this will negatively affect sentiment but until the extent of any contamination is confirmed it is difficult to quantify the impact of the recall on Greencore although at this stage we would not expect it to be material.

“The longer the scandal runs the greater the likely impact on the group’s financial performance.”

Source of contamination

Tonio Borg, Health and Consumer Policy Commissioner, welcomed the French authorities identifying and suspending the licence of Spanghero due to the firm “knowingly” selling horse meat as beef.

The company has denied the allegation saying it believed the meat it received from Romania was beef and not horse.

French investigations found firms in Luxembourg, Romania, the Netherlands and Cyprus are likely to be involved.

“This is indeed a major step forward in an investigation which has been mobilizing the EU's and Member States' competent food and consumer authorities for a week now.

“Full scope of the investigation remains to be established but these findings illustrate that traceability of food in the EU works.”  

UK arrests and further discoveries

In developments yesterday, Dyfed-Powys Police in Wales made three arrests at both meat plants inspected by the FSA on Tuesday.

At Farmbox Meats near Aberystywth, police arrested two men aged 64 years and 42 years, and a man aged 63 at the Peter Boddy Slaughterhouse in Todmorden, West Yorkshire.

Approvals for both plants were suspended so neither firm was operational.

Dyfed-Powys Police confirmed the three people were arrested on suspicion of offences under the Fraud Act and they are being detained at Aberystwyth Police Station where they will be interviewed jointly by police and FSA staff.

Catering supplier Rangelands Foods in the Republic of Ireland also reported that some of its burger products contain significant levels of horse meat.

The company’s own testing found between 5% and 30% of horse meat in some of its frozen burger products distributed to UK caterers and wholesalers.

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