Horsemeat: Compass and Whitbread find horse DNA in products


Catherine Brown, FSA chief executive, says "it is unlikely we will ever know" how many unwittingly ate horsemeat

Catering giant Compass Group and Whitbread, one of Britain's largest hotel chains, have found horse DNA in products sold as beef, it has emerged.

Horsemeat has also been found in cottage pies supplied to 47 schools in Lancashire - they have been withdrawn.

But the Food Standards Agency says that after 2,501 fresh tests no new products have been identified as containing more than 1% horsemeat.

It said the 29 positive results were on seven previously withdrawn products.

FSA chief executive Catherine Brown said she remained "confident" that the testing was the right way to address the issue.

"It is industry's responsibility to get this right - not the government's - and we consider that a comprehensive testing programme at all points of the supply chain and in all sectors is an essential step in addressing this issue.

"And as this programme of testing and publishing results continues, and as action is taken to tackle this issue in supply chains across Europe, we will reach the point where we can say with confidence that horse meat is no longer illegally entering the UK food chain."

'Shocked and dismayed'

What is meat?

  • To be labelled as meat, a product needs to conform to a European Commission standard.
  • Meat is restricted to skeletal muscle with naturally included fat and connective tissue.
  • Any fat or connective tissue in excess of the limits set out cannot be counted towards the meat content.
  • The maximum limits are:
  • Pork: 30% fat, 25% connective tissue.
  • Birds and rabbits: 15% fat, 10% connective tissue
  • All other red meat (including beef): 25% fat, 25% connective issue.
  • Mechanically recovered meat cannot be counted towards the meat content.
  • The legally required minimum meat that must be included in beefburgers in the UK is 62%, or 47% for economy beefburgers

Source: Defra

Compass Group, one of the biggest school food providers in the UK, says its tests have found between 5% and 30% horse DNA in burgers it sold in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

It says the burgers were supplied by Rangeland Foods in County Monaghan, which previously withdrew more than 9,000 burgers made for the UK market after some were found to contain horsemeat.

Compass said the Rangeland burgers had been supplied to 13 sites in the Irish Republic and 27 in Northern Ireland, mostly offices but including two unnamed secondary schools.

It described the situation as "totally unacceptable" and said all affected sites had been given "unreserved apologies".

And Whitbread, which owns Premier Inn, Beefeater Grill and Brewers Fayre, says it found horse DNA in two products - burgers supplied by food supplier Paragon Quality Foods and lasagne from Brakes Brothers.

Creative Foods, owned by Brakes Brothers, and which caters for schools and hospitals in the UK, had used frozen beef mince for lasagne from Hampshire-based supplier Pinnacle Foods, some of which has now been found to contain horse DNA.

Creative says it has now stopped using Pinnacle Foods as a supplier, and Brakes is also recalling one of its own-brand lasagne products as a precaution.

Pinnacle's managing director Graham Reed said this development was "a complete surprise and shock to us".

He added: "We are devastated by the news, and working very hard to trace back where the offending material may have come from.

"We have never ever knowingly had equine material on our premises or indeed ever dealt in horsemeat. We will be working very closely with FSA and customers alike to get to the bottom of it."

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson told the BBC he expected the food industry to have completed their horsemeat tests by the end of next week.

He said it was for the industry to "get out there and reassure the public".

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson: "Food companies must get their systems sorted out"

Asked about the retailers' response to the crisis, he said that was "for the food businesses themselves to decide, they are responsible for the quality and integrity of what they present to the public", before adding that it was not for him to "micro-manage" food businesses.

But Labour's Mary Creagh said the public would be "shocked and dismayed that horsemeat has now been found in schools and hospitals" and called for the prime minister to order the FSA to speed up its testing.

In other developments:

'Fresh beef'

A group of 11 food suppliers, including Tesco and Asda, issued a letter on Friday stating they shared shoppers' "anger and outrage" and rejecting government criticism they "remained silent" over the crisis.

The letter was signed by chief executive of Tesco, Philip Clarke, Asda Stores boss, Andy Clarke, the chief executive of J Sainsbury, Justin King, and Dalton Philips, chief executive of Wm Morrison Supermarkets, among others. Several also released the results of their tests.

Safety issues

  • The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has demanded food businesses to check for horsemeat in all processed beef products, such as burgers, meatballs and lasagne. The first set of results are expected on Friday
  • There is concern that some horses are given a drug called bute (phenylbutazone), which can be dangerous to humans
  • In rare cases bute causes a serious blood disorder known as aplastic anaemia, where the body does not make enough new blood cells
  • Meat from animals treated with phenylbutazone are not allowed to enter the food chain for this reason
  • The Food Standards Agency ordered Findus to test its beef lasagne that contains horsemeat for bute, but no traces were found

Iceland said that all of its own brand beef products have been found to be free from horsemeat.

The Co-Operative Group said 59 of its 102 own-brand minced beef products have been tested so far, with all found to be clear of horsemeat. And Morrisons says 68 test results on its products have not found horsemeat, with more results still to come.

Tesco says tests on 149 of its products are clear, and Sainsbury's say their tests show no horse adulteration. Waitrose says it has conducted about 40 tests, none of which showed the presence of horsemeat.

Last month, Irish food inspectors said they had found horsemeat in beefburgers made by firms in the Irish Republic and the UK, and sold by a number of UK supermarket chains, including Tesco, Iceland, Aldi and Lidl.

Since then, a growing number of UK retailers have recalled processed beef products found to contain horse DNA.

Some shops have already recalled products found to be adulterated, including Asda, which withdrew a beef Bolognese sauce on Thursday - the first fresh beef product to be involved.

Aldi, Tesco and Findus have also withdrawn some beef-based ready meals.


French food producer makes order

Comigel HQ in Metz, north-east France, asks its subsidiary, Tavola in Luxembourg, to make food products - including beef lasagne for Findus.

Factory orders meat

The Tavola factory orders the meat from Spanghero in the south of France.

Subcontractor used

Spanghero contacts a subcontractor in Cyprus to source the meat.

Subcontractor enlists trader

The Cypriot subcontractor in turn contacts a trader in the Netherlands.

Trader orders from Romania

The trader in the Netherlands places an order for meat with abattoirs in Romania.

Abattoirs send meat to France

The meat from the abattoirs travels to Spanghero in France. However, Romania rejects claims that it was responsible for wrongly describing the horsemeat from its abattoirs as beef. Horsemeat is always labelled as such, they say. The Romanian authorities claim records show orders had been for horse carcass - easily distinguishable from beef.

Meat used to make products

Spanghero sends the meat to the Comigel subsidiary’s factory in Luxembourg before the finished products are supplied to Findus and retailers across Europe, including the UK. The president of Comigel says the company was unaware the meat was coming from abroad.

Horsemeat found in Ireland and UK

Tests by Irish authorities have found equine DNA in beefburgers made by firms in the Irish Republic and the UK. Traces of horsemeat have also been found in stored meat at another plant in Ireland and one in Northern Ireland. In mainland Britain, police and officials probing alleged horsemeat mislabelling have carried out raids at a slaughterhouse in West Yorkshire and a meat firm near Aberystwyth. Three men were later arrested on suspicion of offences under the Fraud Act..


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Horsemeat scandal

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  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    The big supermarkets have to take full responsibility, surely they have some forms of quality control on meat products, equally they should be punished as well as any guilty meat supplier/processor found to be supplying horse meat that was actually labelled as Beef.

    Hit them in the pocket with fines under the trade discription act

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Damage limitation from all concerned. Get the lobbyists out on tv to say that all is well. Our political masters as usual seeking to pin the blame on someone somewhere - anyone if need be. Protection of our citizenry from this type of Orwellian fantasy is at the heart of why we elect our representatives

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    Makes a complete mockery of any form of food standard which we see stamped all over products. Imagine what would happen if airlines and car manufactures applied the same blasé attitude towards fitting parts on their aircraft and cars. That’s what standards are for.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    What is it with the UK and our food, BSE, Salmonella and now this scandal ?

  • Comment number 23.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Perhaps those places identified as having added pork to halal meat intended for Moslem prisoners might be thinking there could be more severe consequences than a fine.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Only Horse DNA ?

    What about all the other animals - they didn't test for that did they.

    Pigs, Sheep ... what else is in this food ??

    The Government has been trying to keep the lid on since the story broke - basically British people have been put in danger by horrific corporate greed ... just a few years after BSE killed hundreds.

    Meat ? Can you trust it ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    I noticed that M&S weren't on the list. What can we assume from that?

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    5.DavidHankey - ".....unscrupulous foreign dealers of meat who are prepared to relabel their products......"

    It is for the retailers (in our case UK ones) to CHECK what is in the stuff their order, as they are the ones selling it.

    7.thrill_vermilion - ".....Why is the FSA not taking an active role here ..."

    They had their bidget slashed & cannot afford it any more.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Been found in school meals too. The lid is wonder the supermarkets are putting their false empathy hats on, its all coming out now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    If the supermarkets were not obsessed with forcing down prices, UK suppliers would not have to find "cheap" meat from abroad, where everyone knows they eat horses, dogs, frogs & snails.
    Seriously, when the buyer controls the price paid to the producer, it is hypocritical of them to express "outrage" when the burger turns round and kicks them in the backside.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Indeed good news for independent Butchers and the likes of Waitrose for instance..they take care to know exactly where their food is sourced why dont the other retailers? Shoppers may have to pay slightly more but they can eat their food with confidence knowing the source. Shoppers will have to vote with their feet and dont use these retailers that are falling victim to this deepening issue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    the tests shouldnt be to see if a product contains horse meat, should be to test that the procudt only contains what it should. God knows what else is in there so why only test for 1 thing!?

    as for blame, as a consumer, we must blame the retailer, thats who we bought the product from. Its their responsibility to ensure what they are selling is what they claim.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Government policy is to reduce Red Tape and reduce Public Spending.
    They remove rules governing checking of foods and the staff who undertake the checks.
    They then blame Public Servants for not checking effectively and Retailers for the wrongdoing of their suppliers.
    This is a 'not me Guv' Govt who's spin doctors are as inept as those who advised Marie Antoinette to declare 'let them eat cake'

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    So, according to the FSA, less than 1% horsemeat counts as a negative? It still counts as far as I am concerned. Horsemeat is horsemeat, not beef.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Its funny how the food companies keep repeating in every single statement: "Customers can be confident about our products". How on Earth can they be serious about this when even they dont know what they are selling!?

  • Comment number 11.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    "Retailers have not been reticent..." and for the last couple of weeks they have been jumping about entirely reactively to the crisis and declaring their undying love and loyalty to their customers. I've heard it all! Where were the big supermarkets before this and why were they not testing what they flog us - particularly at the 'value' end of the market - long ago? They are a disgrace.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    The UK meat industry is very tightly regulated, as are the farms who supply the retailers. Farm Assurance is now essentially a "must" for any UK farmer who wants to sell his produce.

    So why is it that the same retailers who insist (and check) on these very high standards from UK suppliers have not applied the same rules & inspections to their overseas suppliers?

    By British - it's safer!

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    in IDS's thoughts : " I know !..If I can get the Workfare scheme to extend to abattoirs... someone falls over..Oh god No they'll never sign up to that ".


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