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Horsemeat has also been found in cottage pies supplied to 47 schools in Lancashire - they have been withdrawn.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It said the 29 positive results were on seven previously withdrawn products.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 447.

    I hope the retailers caught up in this realize that their thirst for profits at the expense of monitoring and BASIC safety and health standards has potentially cost them their business. Given the choice of Morrisons or Tesco, I now know which I will have faith in. Short-termism and greed has really paid off for them this time, almost destroying brands built over decades. Well done, greedy idiots!

  • rate this

    Comment number 446.

    one % of what i know we have all been eating it for years %

  • rate this

    Comment number 445.

    Just now on R4...

    "British cows loosing their jobs to European horses"

  • rate this

    Comment number 444.

    Just how did we, the people who go to these pubs and restaurants, let them provide us with processed food stuffs that so called chefs Chuck together and call it homemade!

    I guess we believed what it says on the packaging.

    I have only found ONE, out of Nine, local pub that makes its own beef burgers and prepares it's own's amazing what you hear when you ask.

  • rate this

    Comment number 443.

    Horsemeat in everything - and a bunch of donkeys in government stamping their hooves about it.

    Vegetarianism looks a better and better option all the time...

  • rate this

    Comment number 442.

    Amazed at how many air miles one dead horse obviously clocks up. Don't feel too bad about jetting off to the sun ....

  • rate this

    Comment number 441.

    I see one of the companies that has been selling meat products containing horsemeat is called 'Creative Foods'....superb!

  • rate this

    Comment number 440.

    I'm so pleased we always buy our meat from our local butcher in Tadworth, family run firm, been there for ever-so-many years. Cuts it up in front of you, all locally sourced, very good quality. Not the cheapest but then the best seldom is. Quality is always more important to me than price, you get what you pay for I'm afraid.

  • rate this

    Comment number 439.

    @418 Lone Gunman
    I've been vegetarian for nearly 20 years. It was one of the best life decisions I've ever made.
    Don't be so smug. You vegetarians face the same problem of traceability. Do you know where your veg comes from? What fertilisers/chemicals have been sprayed on them? Have they been GM with frog DNA? Do you know what's in those veggie burgers you're eating? Uni-Quorn perhaps?

  • rate this

    Comment number 438.

    Why are they STILL just doing specific tests ? ie horse dna in processed beef. They need to do more comprehensive tests and across a range of meats.

  • Comment number 437.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 436.

    Does the UK's army of overpaid, over-pensioned civil servants, who are supposedly safeguarding our interests, actually ever do anything? The Food Standards Agency has obviously neglected for many decades to use simple modern methods to test meat adulteration. The Financial Services Association did nothing as the banks stole our money and destroyed our economy. They appear to be totally useless.

  • rate this

    Comment number 435.

    Tesco value spaghetti bolognese were supposedly withdrawn several days ago but last night they were still on sale in Tesco Extra Surrey Quays in Southwark, London

  • rate this

    Comment number 434.

    @ 427. beammeup

    If we all stopped eating meat just think of what would happen. All the beautiful countryside back to nature. The Amazon, Africa lovely.


    Except for the huge tracts of land that will have to be used to grow crops to feed the vegetarian population. I guarantee it would take more land than livestock grazing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 433.

    we dont shop at tescos !! thanks !!

  • rate this

    Comment number 432.

    all very well to say only 1% of it was Horse but 1% of 1000 Tonnes is 10 Tonnes of the stuff and that is just an off the cuff guess, the real figure is probably in the 10's of Thousands of Tonnes

    We are eating rubbish that is not fit for Dogs and this Government has cut the FSA to the BONE What did they expect ?

    This has to be laid at the Door of the Government Morning Noon and Night.

  • rate this

    Comment number 431.

    Will the investigation go beyond beef?

  • rate this

    Comment number 430.

    The way this is being reported is outrageous.

    Horsemeat found in school dinners -
    "officials say children would have consumed only a "minute" amount of horsemeat."

    What rubbish, how long have they been eating it, weeks, months.

    POINT IS, there could be ANYTHING in it, its NOT the meat thats the real danger but chemicals/injections etc that are BANNED in UK/EU

  • rate this

    Comment number 429.

    It's dead simple really. If you don't want to eat horse (and why not if you already eat beef, lamb and pork) then just stop eating meat! Or go to a local supplier and you'll find that the great myth about supermarkets being cheap is just that. All this talk about people not being able to afford NOT to shop in supermarkets is nonsense. Local butchers' prices are not as high as you think.

  • rate this

    Comment number 428.

    Amazed there is no comment from Ed Sillyband trying to make out if we were the Govt we would have handled the situation differently.

    I am sure it wont be long before he opens his mouth again showing what a waste of space he is for the Labour Party.

    The sooner we get rid of him the sooner we stand a chance of being elected.


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