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Horsemeat has also been found in cottage pies supplied to 47 schools in Lancashire - they have been withdrawn.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It said the 29 positive results were on seven previously withdrawn products.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 467.

    The spokesman from the Coop says, "It is not the fault of the Government, the FSA or the suppliers. It is OUR fault!" "We have to apologise and make amends!" But no other spokesman says this!
    Also no one will admit how long they might have been serving us horseburgers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 466.

    What I want to know is, considering how many meals, across so many countries in the EU, where the heck have all the dead horse come from??

    Is there a shortage of dog food?

  • rate this

    Comment number 465.

    This week in the world, North Korea detonated a nuclear bomb creating tensions, wars are being fought in the Middle-East and North Africa to combat militant Islam, deepening economic uncertainty across Europe and the fear that lack of fresh water could spark global conflicts. Yet the headline news story in the UK for the past week is about a bit of horse meat in some products labelled as beef...

  • rate this

    Comment number 464.

    The retailers and processers who have allowed this to happen owe the British farmers, processors & consumers a detailed explanation - They clearly have not audited all their producers to the same standard...

    Britain's farmers & processors all have to meet strict rules, inspections and routine quality monitoring - why has the same not been enforced for imported items?

    It is time for change.

  • rate this

    Comment number 463.

    Can someone please advise who I should sue for compensation? I have paid for beef meals and/or meat in good faith but have been deceived.
    There's no evidence that you ate a contaminated product- You've quite literally passed that stage.

  • rate this

    Comment number 462.

    The finger of responsibility for all of this scandal points directly at the supermarkets. They have driven down the prices they pay suppliers so hard and for so long that in the end cheating and fraud will be the result. Buy your fresh meat from a butcher and ask him/her where his/her product originates, a good butcher will be pleased to tell you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 461.

    I think the point is being missed here.
    To be honest probably most of us who have been abroad on holiday have eaten horsemeat albeit unknowingly. Case of what you dont know etc. etc.
    Admittedly I would rather not eat it from choice .
    The real point is the possibility of drugs eg. BUTE being in the product which seems to be getting covered up and wrong information regarding

  • rate this

    Comment number 460.

    362 Horsemeat Tories - what a load of political nonsense! The FSA have admitted that they have never tested to see what type of meat was being sold, they tested for bacteria. Take your false political posturing elsewhere.

  • rate this

    Comment number 459.

    The 650 MPs are to blame for not doing their job to legislate and regulate to protect all of us from the banks,energy companies and supermarkets.

  • rate this

    Comment number 458.

    Hard for me to see beyond meat eaters getting what they deserve for the suffering and cruelty which they contribute to. Mass, industrialised killing of animals.

    It really is sick.

  • rate this

    Comment number 457.

    Can someone please advise who I should sue for compensation? I have paid for beef meals and/or meat in good faith but have been deceived.

  • rate this

    Comment number 456.

    I love a bit of haggis, meself! Nice with a horse's lungs in it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 455.

    There are a couple of supermarkets who are conspicuous by their absence in declaring what has been found on their shelves. Whilst companies like M&S, Tesco, Asda, Waitrose and Aldi publish results I find it strange nothing has been heard of Morrisons or Sainsbury's. Are they alone in Europe not to have been contaminated?
    ALL food retailers should be forced by law to publish their findings

  • rate this

    Comment number 454.

    First, Pink Slime for the fast-food giants, Horse meat in convenient frozen foods, what next?
    Another victim of deregulation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 453.

    439. B Burnett

    ' Do you know what's in those veggie burgers you're eating? Uni-Quorn perhaps?'

    If that's a Burnett original, well done. If not thanks for making me laugh anyway. Can't wait to tell my veggie wife.

  • rate this

    Comment number 452.

    I bet it's nothing to do with how supermarkets treat the suppliers......

    Pay peanuts..............get monkeys
    Pay little for beef.........get no beef

    Every little helps

  • rate this

    Comment number 451.

    So how is all of this doing on the stock exchange??? Thats what really counts...isn't it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 450.

    How long have nutritionists and alternative medicine practisioners been saying that our diet is key to all chronic health problems? Our doctors never consider our diet to be health related. Horsemeat is not so much a problem unless it has drugs in it - its so much of the other rubbish in modern food. Hippocrates said "let food be thy medicine". We need to trash the junk of modern food and drugs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 449.

    @434 - don't be silly. It takes ten times as much energy to produce a pound of beef than it does a pound of grain, for example. You need to go and look up 'trophic levels' and figure out why it takes much more land to feed a meat eater than it does a vegetarian.

  • rate this

    Comment number 448.

    Vegetarianism looks a better and better option all the time...
    Bet that's what the horse thought too!


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