Minister warns prosecutions possible over horse meat scandal
A government minister has said there could be prosecutions following the discovery of horse meat in some supermarket beefburgers.
Environment Minister David Heath was responding to an urgent question from Labour's shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh on 17 January 2013.
Earlier this week it emerged Irish food inspectors had found almost 30% horsemeat in one brand of beefburgers sold by Tesco.
Smaller amounts were also found in beefburgers sold by Iceland, Lidl and Aldi and Dunnes.
Mr Heath acknowledged the seriousness of the discovery but told MPs not to "talk down" the British food industry at a time when standards "are of a very high level".
He said: "Because something has been discovered in Ireland, which is serious, which may lead to criminal proceedings, does not undermine the very serious efforts which are taken by retailers, by processors and by producers in this country to ensure traceability and ensure standards of food that are available to consumers."
Raising her urgent question, Ms Creagh said there was "understandable" public anger about supermarkets selling food which was not properly labelled.
She told MPs: "Customers must have the confidence the food they buy is correctly labelled, legal and safe. The UK is part of a global food supply chain."
Ms Creagh also urged the government to consider introducing DNA testing of meat products, the system which detected the problem in Ireland.
Liberal Democrat Roger Williams warned that high commodity prices could result in more food adulteration in the future.
"When you have got high-priced beef and, as I understand it, low-priced horse meat, some unscrupulous food processors are likely to take advantage of that."
Labour's Kevan Jones asked whether adulterated meat may have been used in other outlets, including fast food restaurants.
Mr Heath replied: "Those investigations are under way to make sure that if this scandal is replicated in other low-cost beefburgers it is picked up and we take the appropriate action."