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Horsemeat has also been found in cottage pies supplied to 47 schools in Lancashire - they have been withdrawn.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It said the 29 positive results were on seven previously withdrawn products.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 487.

    Of course it's there. Where else do you think it's going?

    Closing the stable door well too late.

    And are they testing for human DNA?
    Not that it matters.

  • rate this

    Comment number 486.

    With or without 700 food 'safety' officers - & so far no-one has said this horsemeat isn't safe, just fradulently described as beef - I don't believe this could have been spotted. It's easy to blame Government but almost impossible to see how this fraud could have been detected, especially given the complex and hugely long supply foodchain, unless the FSA randomly decided to test for horse.

  • rate this

    Comment number 485.

    Oh, come on everybody!

    Get off your milk and eat your horse!

    I just hate to see people on horseback around our village - - I do not like my dinner being sat on before it reaches my plate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 484.

    - - - because the health inspectors had found HALF of an alsatian in the fridge........The other half had done me no harm!!
    Were you barking up the wrong ghee?
    Apologies - Must be time for some red (without the rum!).

  • rate this

    Comment number 483.

    If the Government are really concerned about our health
    now would be a good time to ensure better monitoring
    within the abattoirs including CCTV’s. But then I suspect that
    they do not service any supermarket ready meals at David Cameron’s “dinners”. Just another example of this millionaire’s cabinet free market ideology looking after the rich, and as ever not quite in it together.

  • rate this

    Comment number 482.

    Doesn't anyone else find it unacceptable that the companies behind this horse meat scandal have been allowed to investigate themselves?

    @greyhound, i think in America they call it a class lawsuit or something, you'd have to get together with a lot of other people and take it to the courts because for one person alone it'd be very expensive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 481.

    Are they only checking for horse DNA or other DNA i.e cat, dog, and dare I say human.

  • rate this

    Comment number 480.

    Meat eaters remind me of Beavis and Butthead.


    So primitive.

    Haven't read all this HYS, but I bet we've had the idiots tell us all about their canine teeth. That's the meat eaters favourite go-to argument for continuing to eat meat.

    If gangs are putting in horse meat, you can guarantee rat meat, road kill etc are also included.

  • rate this

    Comment number 479.

    5 Minutes ago
    There's no evidence that you ate a contaminated product- You've quite literally passed that stage.

    Proof is on store cards eg Tesco clubcard as to what has been purchased so evidence is there - think outside the box. My question still stands, who do I get compensation from?

  • rate this

    Comment number 478.

    All this talk about we should do this, we should do that. It's too late once the horse has bolted....

  • rate this

    Comment number 477.

    People saying they can't afford to eat fresh are uneducated. I bet those same people have second cars, smoke, go out every week, have satellite TV, designer clothes... this is stuff you PUT IN YOUR BODY. The safety and integrity of your family's food should be your number one priority. If you cannot afford to eat fresh you really need to look at your priorities and maybe have an adult help you!

  • rate this

    Comment number 476.

    Crikey !!! - no groups round the coffee machine at the FSA -- whatever will they do now ???
    Fraud on such a grand scale and seems to have been on the go for decades. Supermarket buyers and food chains are complete suckers !
    Gotta get me a posse together and hunt down 'em horsethieves. Hi ho silver !!

  • rate this

    Comment number 475.

    These people should be shot.

  • Comment number 474.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 473.

    If the FSA can arrange for so much testing in such a short space of time what were they doing before ??? playing on their shiny new government ipads ? checking their facebook accounts ??
    All senior managers in the FSA should be SACKED and they shouldn't be allowed to collect their golden egg pensions either !

  • rate this

    Comment number 472.

    I get fed up with ministers etc telling us to use local butchers ...... our town has no butchers like many of surounding areas. Honestly I do not know where my nearest butcher is. Possibly on some farm miles from any where which as I do not drive is not a feasible option. I find it very condesending when people assume every one has a car or has someone to ferry them around.

  • rate this

    Comment number 471.

    What happened to the reported DONKEY meat?

    Does any one else know if tests for AFRICAN MEATS were carried out?

    When asked "what else was in there" on Sky News the director of the FSA skilfully avoided the question.

  • rate this

    Comment number 470.

    I used to go to an Indian restaurant in Shrewsbury every week with a climbing club.
    Then, one week, when we went there was a notice "closed until further notice" on the door.

    Two days later an article in the local paper told us that the place had been close down for ever - - - because the health inspectors had found HALF of an alsatian in the fridge........

    The other half had done me no harm!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 469.

    "The current law is clear, that it's for food businesses to be responsible for the quality of the food they present to the consumer."

    The law needs changing then, it should be the government's responsibility to ensure that no business can defraud or put consumers in harms way.

  • Comment number 468.

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


Page 15 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.