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Horsemeat has also been found in cottage pies supplied to 47 schools in Lancashire - they have been withdrawn.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It said the 29 positive results were on seven previously withdrawn products.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 107.

    I bought some lambs liver from a well known supermarket 2 yrs ago and complained that some of it was ox liver. said they would look into it nothing happened.
    needless to say stopped shopping there and after this week shop at local butcher for all my meats think it's safer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    So that's what free trade, open markets and freedom of movement of goods within the EU leads to....

    ....time for some protectionist national barriers to be erected, all incoming shipments of foreign stuff tested at the borders ...

    and dine only on delicious hand-reared, organically farmed British beef, lamb, pork and chicken.

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    No wonder European governments are always trying to push for new roads, with the rather unsettling chain of meat transport that was going on. All those refrigerated vans hurtling round Europe. The eventual purchasers could have saved a fortune cutting out all those pointless middle-men.

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    Oh come one !

    Why do the majority of people here think this is some new thing !

    It has ALWAYS gone on: we have only really been able to test stuff properly now that DNA analysis has come of age.

    Wasn't this last exposed in 1948 too ? Then it wasn't processed food, but actual meat - people were getting served horse steaks instead of beef.

    The issue isn't the meat - but the fraud.

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    As usual people on here spend hours talking around the subject

    This is not about people choosing or having the time to eat ready meals
    Or whether it’s ok to eat horse meat etc

    It’s very simple about whether it’s ok to sell us the public horse meat and describe and label it as beef with the possible health concerns

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    Lets keep this in perspective...
    Death by NHS - estimated at 3,000
    Death by horsemeat - 0 so far
    Time for the BBC to get it's eye back on the ball

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    Old MacDonald had a farm so I have no idea what goes into his burgers

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    Lot of cats gone missing round our way recently....

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    24.Herb - "What is it with the UK and our food, BSE, Salmonella and now this scandal ?"

    It is what happens when big corporations get control of a market.....self regulation does not work (press, MPs expenses et al).....competition doesn't even work when the corporations get too few (gas, electric et al).......profits/personal enrichment at the expense of the comsumer.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    What is the complaint about eating horse meat? Very peculiar? Is this a particular British thing. Not to eat our equine friends?

    You eat pig and offal, chicken and cow, each other? The French eat big juicy horse steak all of the time. They are not complaining and neither are the Belgians!

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    43.Naughtie Was Right
    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.
    Yes, people were trotting them out ad nauseam. By the end they just galopped away with it and the whole situation bolted out of control. I am glad those comedians have been reigned in.

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    I eat in a Compass Group run work canteen.

    I had the veggie option.


  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    6. Zerodebt
    Time to test pet food too! Bet it's full of Bute loaded horse meat...
    Of course it is. Thats why its legal (and normal) for British slaugherhouses to be killing & processing horse. It just shouldn't be ending up in human food. Pedigree chum or Whiskas is a different matter. Ironically some of the better cat food looks better than cheap human food!

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    If they are putting horse meat in the human food chain, God knows what goes into the pet food tins, Their motto seems to be ' If we can mince it, you can eat it'

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    I always buy my burgers from my butcher, who makes them from the sides of beef he gets from good beef suppliers (Not the superannuated dairy cows from some cheap chains) They cost more, but shrink less and taste divine. He disappointed me today though. For some reason he had totally sold out. Let's hope his increased trade stays loyal once they have tasted the real thing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    Unsure why we care so much, horse apparently tastes exactly the same as beef... There is no health risk from it, if anything its potentially healthier then beef, it has provided cheaper meals for the masses which no one complained about.

    Why is eating a horse somehow worse then eating a cow??

    I say "i feel like i could eat a horse" all the time, its nice to know theres a fair chance I have :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    Fantastic - This is the private sector; this is what our government keeps telling us is great and what the public sector should be like.

    They are just a bunch of shoddy, duplicitous scoundrels who will do anything to line their pockets with more money - and tough on customers. And this is what the public sector will be like when they get their grubby little fingers on it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    @ 36, whine99..

    Get your coat!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    Supermarkets drive the prices down to unsustainable levels then cry out when suppliers cut corners, they should look at themselves as much as thier suppliers, this is not new it has probably been going on for a long time but they have got away with it.Once they have cleared up this mess finding a way to stop it happening in future must be the priority.

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    Why is it none of the fast food chains are coming forward with tests of their own ? Surely this should be a necessary step on their behalf to quell fears that Horse has not been found in any of their products also ?
    They are unsurprisingly quiet.
    Also why have there not been any checks on chicken, pork and lamb ?


Page 34 of 39


More UK stories



Copyright © 2015 BBC. 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.