The UK Food Standards Agency is weighing up the possibility of launching legal action against one of Europe's largest food producers after it emerged that some of its beef products contained horse DNA.
Two of ABP Food Groups subsidiaries, Silvercrest Foods and Dalepak Hambleton, were this week found to have been supplying beef burgers to the UK's largest supermarket chain, Tesco, which contained significant quantities of horse meat. In one case a burger was found to be 29% horse meat.
A third supplier, Liffey Meats, was also found to be supplying beef products containing horse meat.
In addition to horse contamination, several of the companies' beef products including ready meals were found to include pig DNA.
The investigation was carried out by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), although some of the products in question were shipped for sale in the UK.
The UK Food Standards Agency has met with its Irish counterparts to discuss the investigation and, having also met with industry representatives, will now launch a review into the traceability of food products identified by the FSAI.
It is thought the source of the contamination could be imported ingredients for meat products, sourced in the Netherlands and in Spain, although this is yet to be confirmed.
Tesco is not the only supermarket to be embroiled in the scandal. The manufacturers also supplied products to Lidl, Aldi, Iceland and Dunnes Stores in Ireland. All retailers said that potentially affected products had been removed from shelves within hours of the FSAI announcement.
The motivation for contamination of additive ingredients is unclear, although experts are speculating that the ingredient suppliers may be using cheaper horse meat to bulk out their products. If intentional this would amount to fraud.
Simon Coveney is the Agriculture and Food Minister for Ireland.
"The issue is if someone has consumed a burger and something was in that burger that they did not know about. There's no health risk with that."
Horse burger firm could face legal action (Evening Standard)