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Horsemeat has also been found in cottage pies supplied to 47 schools in Lancashire - they have been withdrawn.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It said the 29 positive results were on seven previously withdrawn products.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

    Comment number 367.

    Being a meat eater myself Its not the fact that it is horse, it is more a case that the animals are unlikely to have had the stringent standards applied to its husbandry as do more usual meats. Veterinary practice can pump all manner of growth and medicinal chemicals into the animals that are not necessarily safe for humans and I think that is where the problem lies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 366.

    It's al Labours fault and Gordon Browns that the Torys have introduced the vile bedroom tax and that they have had to give their millioaire buddys a tax cut... was there Bull in any sample taken?

  • rate this

    Comment number 365.


    The butt hurt ignorance is strong with this one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 364.

    Knuckle-draggers eat meat.

    In a 1000 years time, humanity will look back at meat eaters like we look back at cavemen. Simple, primitive, instinct-driven beings who walk about with a club looking for food.

    Meat eaters are holding humanity back. Same as the religious folk.

    Get with the times. Get healthy. Leave animals to roam freely. Stop mass killing.

    Meat eaters in general have a lower IQ.

  • rate this

    Comment number 363.

    And the Mnister last week assured us there was no cause for alarm and the whole thing was isolated.

    Just like mad cow disease, Don't you just have faith in our 'leaders'. Bet there is no mince on the house of commons menu.

  • rate this

    Comment number 362.

    Self regulation ends in mass corruption - especially in todays economic climate. Why has the Tory party sacked 700 food safety officers? Had they been kept this abomination would never have been created. The government is to blame.

  • rate this

    Comment number 361.

    I used to work in one of the big supermarkets and I was stocking a section of "polish foods" as the store in question called it and looked at the jar called Sandwich Fat (contains meat) didnt specify which meat- this was years ago been on going for years people with the big supermarkets- not to mention the rats, chicken fat and other horrors in the bakery and fridges in that store...

  • rate this

    Comment number 360.

    As with anything purchased by the government, is it time to bring in letters of conformity to food products so that we could trace every part back to its origins, this would of course put prices up and would do nothing to stop rogue traders, so its up to the government to increase the powers of trading standards dept and make supermarkets etc responsible for the quality of the goods and labeling.

  • rate this

    Comment number 359.

    @351 incurablecynic.

    Hear, hear.....

    What ARE the boys in blue doing about all this?

    As for the FSA, it employs 1800 people (I believe) to tell us what we already know. Like most Quangos, it should be closed down and the staff redeployed on to useful employment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 358.

    This is what concerns me about politicians and especially about Cameron. their view of less regulation and getting out of the EU probably means less fair treatment of employees and less regulations regarding food, banking etc. so they can corner us better!

  • rate this

    Comment number 357.

    @320 Because in most of these newspapers you'll find a mcdonalds advert. As is always the case, the news is governed by those in power [commercial], and not those with morals. The most overused terms in journalistic language are 'press freedom' and being 'out there as it happens'. Load of tosh. They report rubbish for the most part and what suits their agenda and it's always been like that. :|

  • rate this

    Comment number 356.

    Simple solution.
    "May contain traces of nuts." on many food stuffs.

    Just put on "May contain traces of other animal products" on everything sold with meat in.

    As for testing for Human DNA, it's bound to be positive. Humans shed about 1,000,000 skin cells a day, so some is bound to end up in any food that has had a human anywhere near it during production!

  • rate this

    Comment number 355.

    #340 Rob Its a common practice by the Beeb to suppress free speech. Most employees of the Beeb are not BRITISH anyway. Just mentioning Halal meat in any derogatory form will put your posts in jeopardy

  • rate this

    Comment number 354.

    yet again everything is being driven by money,The government shaking their hands and saying not our fault is also not good enough,they find the time to bring in legislation for personal gain,they give billions of our money away to foreign lands without our agreement but cant protect us against the ingress of horsemeat,how about more checks legally binding.

  • rate this

    Comment number 353.

    Who can really say they are surprised.
    Every other branch of society has been shown to be corrupt recently.
    People that ram carcasses into mincing machines in the name of profit are not likely to be wholesome characters now are they.
    Lucky it's not humans.

  • rate this

    Comment number 352.

    Great stuff guys!

  • rate this

    Comment number 351.

    Well I'll say it - I want to see any person found to be at fault here hauled off to jail and businesses found to be at fault shut down.

    But I expect all we'll get is a few oscar-winning performances on camera from senior politicians pretending they care, then it'll be business as usual.

  • rate this

    Comment number 350.

    I agree with "age of absurdity" but would add not "just the food industry". How is any business able to give cheap anything, eg flights?
    What corners are being cut?
    We should all question our assumptions.
    Do we really know what we need to know?
    Do we trust our "masters" to be checking what we think they are checking?
    You might be surprised to find they are not but maybe now you wont be!

  • rate this

    Comment number 349.

    The problem with all of this...believing those we trust are doing the right thing and then finding out they aren't. The list just gets longer & longer doesn't it!

    How to deal with this....don't shop there, and don't buy products when you don't know where they come from. If it says UK - I'd check that too, it just might mean thats where it was packaged.

    Lets be responsible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 348.


    "Ah yes, laughing at vegetarians is very 'cool'"

    Yes it is ! thank you :)


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