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Horsemeat has also been found in cottage pies supplied to 47 schools in Lancashire - they have been withdrawn.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It said the 29 positive results were on seven previously withdrawn products.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..


More on This Story

Horsemeat scandal

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    Notice outside (one of) my local Tesco - A1 sized. It had a lot of guff about what's happened, and then a much smaller section about what had been done. The "what had been done" section had been amended, and simply had "NOTHING" written on it in big red letters.

    Sums it up nicely, I think.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    Tesco have just announced that following tests they are confident that their Hotdogs are correctly labeled!

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    We pay lots of money for agencies who have the job of monitoring such things. The Chief Execs are paid many times more than the average wage yet they constantly fail. The FSA has proved worse than useless. At the same time the Care Quality Commission has been wilfully negligent with the NHS killing thousands who needn't have died! And many more. That's the problem

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    what is it with our regulating authorities, Financial Services Authority couldnt regulate the banks and now the Food Safety Authority cant regulate the food industry, useless!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    I'm glad everyone has finally got bored of the tedious horse puns. They were only amusing for about the first day of the crisis.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    For one thing there shouldn't be any horse meat - what's the "more than 1%" about?
    A big problem is they can only identify what they test for so there could be anything, donkey, dog, cat, rat that this testing wouldn't pick up.
    Can we also assume they are not testing for dangerous levels of growth hormones & anti-biotic residues etc which are also routinely over-used in intensive factory farming?

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    34. dhl
    If you buy meat from a butchers and cook and prepare a meal yourself you know what is in it.
    No you don't. You have to trust the butcher. Frankly anything could be in his sausages & like 99.99% of the public I couldn't tell a Beef rump steak from a horse rump steak (& I eat Kangaroo regularly BTW. That also looks like beef & tastes pretty similar). Doubly so for mince.

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    I quit eating as many processed foods as possible years ago (I'm still partial to a bit of cheese!), even breads and pasta. I try and ensure that my foods look exactly as if I'd picked/harvested/killed them myself. Lots of raw food, too. My diet isn't exactly varied, but it's very tasty, and I'm way fitter than I used to be.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    This is what comes of deregulation and letting industry self regulate. Corruption on all levels for the biggest profit.

    Wouldn't be surprised if such things are going on in all different parts of the food industry including vegetarian foodstuffs.

    Buy local, grow what you can. Boycott the offenders.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    You want cheap, you get cheap, cheap British farm assured beef does not exist as the cost to produce is high, supermarkets have driven lots of farmers in this country out of business by demanding "cheap" milk and meat, maybe now is the time for people to realise that a pint of milk for 25p does not reflect the true cost of production, you want decent meat - sorry but maybe it's time to pay for it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    @29. nutgone

    I completely agree - you can pass bone, tendon, gristle, eyes and hoof off as beef and people are worried that they've eaten a little horse?!?

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    Just heard the big retailers are trying to win customers confidence back with a special promotion. 5000 reward points if you buy their value burgers at the same time as 20 litres of petrol

    They are calling it Only fuel and horses!!!!!


  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    OK let's face it. All processed food is a no-no.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    I really could not care less about what is in processed meats. It is only affecting people who are too lazy or too stupid to cook their own fresh meals. If you buy meat from a butchers and cook and prepare a meal yourself you know what is in it. Consumers only have themselves to blame for buying this rubbish.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    It's not exactly within their corporate interest to wonder why it is so cheap. It is the same mentality that leads to clothes produced in sweatshops - don't ask, just buy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    The answer is simple. Food packaging is supposed to have info that helps make healthy choices. It is clear that info should include the entire chain of production. Every country and company involved.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    Massive fraud and mis-selling.
    How long has this been going on? Many years I would think.
    The inspection and food safety regime has been totally dismantled.

    Our government and FSA will get into a massive blame game and doubt much will happen. Boycott buying rubbish which people are profiteering from right along the food chain.


  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    The reason horsemeat is cheap is because it has circumvented Welfare and Food Safety standards.

    Horses are not cheap to produce for meat and if they were properly produced to the same Welfare and Food Safety standards as beef then horsemeat would be MORE expensive than beef.

    Meat fraud is a cause for concern as it means food safety and animal welfare standards are not adhered to.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    I'm still amazed people are shocked as to what is in a "value" beefburger. I first remember reading about mechanically recovered meat and pink slime in the seventies. I have not eaten processed meats since then. The surprise is that it is horse meat and probably better for you than beef.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    If you want to eat properly you need to cook fresh ingredients. Unfortunately many people buy ready made meals so they can slump in front of the TV. My wife and I have always cooked proper meals although we have often worked long hours. People don't care that often they feed their children with rubbish food instead of providing decent meals.


Page 37 of 39


More UK stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.