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Horsemeat has also been found in cottage pies supplied to 47 schools in Lancashire - they have been withdrawn.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It said the 29 positive results were on seven previously withdrawn products.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 247.

    YUG sums it up! We have a right to expect to get what we pay for and that just doesn't include food. We have the professional liars in politics, the media and law who have made lying the done thing for so long that we we are considered naive if we don't expect to be conned. We might as well start expecting bleach to be sold as lemonade. Heads should roll--but we can be sure that they won't.

  • rate this

    Comment number 246.

    Dont bite the hand that feeds you?

    Sorry to say this,it needs to be!!!

    I would probably eat horse meat if it was sold as such.Its cheap being the only reason.Saying that,they would probably put the price up on it and claim it a delicacy.Saying that,i would still rather eat beef thats affordable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 245.

    Damn meteors causing damage - must be labour and Gordon Browns fault

  • rate this

    Comment number 244.

    The only way that they will learn is to shop elsewhere if you can. I stopped shopping in some of the named supermarkets a few years back, the place I now go is a few miles away, so it's not always possible. I do nip into them when I need to stock up. The other day they was putting part frozen pork chops on the shelves. So that stuff must be cut, then frozen? Nasty.
    I say them cause the big 2 are 1

  • rate this

    Comment number 243.

    When living in France in 1970 my preferred meat was horse, being cheaper and tastier than beef. I knew it was horse meat because I bought it at La Chevaline. The main problem is mis-labelling products. I rarely buy processed foods because they are excessively expensive and contain salt/sugar/sweeteners/preservatives and other additives that I dislike. Note: Elephant is delicious so is kangaroo.

  • Comment number 242.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 241.

    Husband: 'I'm so hungry, I could eat a Horse!'
    Wife: 'Here, have a Tesco burger.'

  • rate this

    Comment number 240.

    Just remember guys.... it's "Horse DNA" not "Horse meat" could be horse semen in your burger.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 239.

    Just because after testing and nothing is found doesn't mean its all clear. And besides how long has this gone on? and can retailers give a guarantee that their value ranges, which seem to be the target say that from now on, if it says beef on the box it is beef and nothing else? Coincidence that people are tightning their belts and cutting back in favour of value ranges and this happens?

  • rate this

    Comment number 238.

    If people took more responsibility in what they ate instead of relying on companies to spoon feed them from a prepackaged, processed box, none of this would be an issue. I hope this is a wake up call to the masses and encourages people to look into what their body needs, rather than what's 'on offer'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 237.

    Although I'm not a fan of the lawsuit culture of the US, I think that retailers should be accountable for food that has their label on it.

    Throughout this scandal we've had apologies by retailers, but until they are incentivised to invest in ensuring quality in their supply chain, we will always have potential for issues like this.

    When they are issued with a lawsuit they'll take it seriously.

  • rate this

    Comment number 236.

    If my butcher was found selling horsemeat as beef he would probably be in a cell now.
    Why are the supermarket directors untouchable?"

    Easy - just take one look at who their friends/associates are. These Directors will never face prison - some are Politicians and/or have significant personal financial interests in Supermarkets.

  • rate this

    Comment number 235.

    Yet again the Government is being nonchalent about food safety. Yes, it is the producers and brand holders legal responsibility to ensure the safety of the products they make, supply and retail, but there has to be a layer of government testing to monitor this.
    Also, the mass balance for beef declared in meat products must be wrong - is anyone checking these stats?

  • rate this

    Comment number 234.

    So that's OK then. The FSA say no new products have been found with more than 1% horsemeat. Presumably the label said "Contains up to 1% horsemeat". No, I bet it didn't. These crooks should be jailed for a long time, the suppliers and the retailers, who think they can profiteer as they please. If it's not on the label, it shouldn't be in the product, it's that simple.

  • rate this

    Comment number 233.

    217. C2DE...

    It's your choice who you vote for.
    But being critical of the government when WE found this problem makes people just sound silly.

    "We need to do more"...

    The UK is NOT allowed to stop importing this rubbish from Europe because we are in the common market and have to abide by EU law.

    If you don't like EU law, vote Tory at the next election and then vote to LEAVE the EU in 2017!

  • rate this

    Comment number 232.

    and we (politicos) want more globalisation?

  • rate this

    Comment number 231.

    You can all complain about this till the cows come home.......


  • rate this

    Comment number 230.

    169 "Why is the South African murder in first place..? are we burying news? Surely food safety is more important?" - sigh, more handwringing, it's not food safety, it's misselling, and there has been wall to tedious wall coverage.
    202 It's all Labour and Gordon Browns fault responsible for everything arn't they? Not fair, Gordon wasn't around in the 60s when Labour destroyed education.

  • rate this

    Comment number 229.

    The unregulated supermarkets are doing better from their mess than the unregulated banks did....- "Morrisons appears to be the biggest winner from the horsemeat scandal after the supermarket chain reported an 18 per cent rise at its fresh meat counters in the wake of revelations over tainted food" No doubt we'll be buying more of the expensive cuts from the others supermarkets too

  • rate this

    Comment number 228.

    ....actually cooking goes on in most schools, both primary and secondary (nowadays it's called 'food technology'...). Quit blaming the schools, and start blaming the lazy parents who bring up their kids on junk food. How much cooking goes on in their homes I wonder?


Page 27 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.