Horsemeat scandal: Birds Eye withdraws UK ready meals

A butcher works behind a "no horsemeat" sign at Bates Butchers in Market Harborough, central England The scandal began last month after horsemeat was found in frozen beefburgers

Birds Eye has withdrawn three beef ready meals from supermarkets in the UK and Ireland as a precaution after horse DNA was found in a product in Belgium.

Birds Eye said its chilli con carne had tested positive for 2% horse DNA.

Meanwhile, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has announced results from 1,133 new tests on beef products.

There were six positive tests for horse DNA at a level of greater than 1% - all on products which have been withdrawn.

The tests covered a range of frozen, chilled or canned products that included lasagne, chilli con carne, cottage pie, ravioli, cannelloni and spaghetti bolognese.

UK food suppliers have now carried out a total of 3,634 tests, the FSA said, and more than 99% had come back negative.

However, 35 results, representing 13 products, contained 1% or more horse DNA.

They had all been previously identified and withdrawn from shelves with the exception of beef burgers, minced beef and halal minced beef from Sodexo, a French catering and facilities giant.

In the UK, Sodexo supplies food to schools and colleges, hospitals and via "meals on wheels", as well as running four prisons.

Though the company said it had withdrawn the relevant products, it would not give details of public sector institutions it supplied.

Further findings

Food firms have also been testing products for the veterinary medicine bute (phenylbutazone).

The medicine can be dangerous to humans because in rare cases it causes a serious blood disorder known as aplastic anaemia. While the FSA insists there is a low risk to health, bute is not allowed to enter the food chain.

On Thursday, a Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) statement reported a "productive" meeting with industry leaders over the use of horse passports.

It said: "Everyone agreed that the steps already taken have eliminated the risk of horses containing bute from entering the food chain.

"We are pleased that the sector agreed the need to tighten and investigate ways to improve the horse passport system.

"We welcome the commitment of the sector to develop their own equine database."

Birds Eye

Although Birds Eye's chilli meal is only sold in Belgium, the company said it would withdraw all other products made by the supplier - Belgian group Frigilunch.

The company said as a precautionary measure in the UK and Ireland it would clear its Traditional Spaghetti Bolognese 340g, Shepherd's Pie 400g and Beef Lasagne 400g from the supermarkets. It will also clear the chilli from shelves in Belgium.

The BBC's Jeremy Cooke goes behind the scenes at a meat processing plant, where food is tracked from abattoir to packet

Birds Eye said: "Whilst this is not a food safety issue, it is clearly unacceptable."

"We want to reassure you from the testing we have completed that all Birds Eye beef burgers, beef pies and beef platters do not contain horse DNA."

Customers who have bought any of the three products will be offered a refund if they contact Birds Eye customer services, the group said.

"We want to apologise to consumers and reassure them that we will keep them fully informed and that we are taking action to deal with this issue," the company added in a statement.

Birds Eye is the latest in a growing number of companies, including Findus and Nestle, to recall beef ready meals.

Last month's discovery of horsemeat in some processed beef products sold by a number of UK supermarkets has sparked widespread investigations.

The FSA asked UK food retailers to test the beef in thousands of their products. In the first results, released on 15 February, 29 out of 2,501 tests were positive - that is, they contained at least 1% horsemeat.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 470.

    We just love blaming institutions for things, don't we? Why not take responsibility for our own actions? And I don't just mean everyone should use their local farm shop or organic butcher - those places cost. But generally. Would we be so upset over this whole affair if we, as individuals, were responsible for it? More here:

  • rate this

    Comment number 469.

    @ 454. squeezy

    Why would privatising the FSA be a good idea. Profits would be directly linked to testing. So events like this would actually be in the interest of a privatised FSA.

    I think some of the more intelligent people on here would think that a big mistake. Well apart from David Cameron, more jobs for the boys hey.

  • rate this

    Comment number 468.

    I grew up on processed meat products like most of the UK's proletariat children of Thatchers 80's, in the BSE (Mad Cow Disease) scare I was sure I was a goner due to all the Dalepak Beef Grillstuks n such in my diet, now I know why I never got it, I was eating horse! Probably 100% Horse, thanks Dalepak, Findus, Birdseye and Iceland from protecting me from BSE, Traded it for the Bute damage to come

  • rate this

    Comment number 467.

    Chuckling at the people who are going on about the wonders of being a vegetarian. Not for me thanks, I enjoy my meat.

  • rate this

    Comment number 466.

    459. puddingandpi

    Does that tell you anything?

    Do you think your Smugness might be the problem rather than being a Vegetarian?

  • rate this

    Comment number 465.

    I'm totally persuaded no more supermarket meat for me - this was waiting to come home to roost when it became clear supermarkets put profits before all else rather than supporting the decent products of our own farmers - the equally worrying thing is it needed the Irish Food Safety Authorities to bring it to light. What are ours paid to do - sit on their backsides with their handsome salaries?

  • rate this

    Comment number 464.

    Why is everyone obsessed with processed beef products? The likelihood is that there's contamination in ALL processed meat products. Not least because production lines are not properly cleaned.
    But I doubt vegetarians are any better off. Who checks no animal fats have been used in the cooking process. Or that no GM crops have been incorporated?

  • rate this

    Comment number 463.

    The government would have us believe the meat is safe...but how can it be when they have no idea where it came from nor how it came about that horse was introduced, it is a disgrace...I will never eat processed food again, I think if we all did the same this horrible problem will be solved

  • rate this

    Comment number 462.

    2 Hours ago
    You can still buy the Birds Eye Lasagne at a reduced price of £1 from the One Stop shop in Durkar (Wakefield), so not everyone has removed it from their shelves!

    -> Of course you can! One Stop Shop is owned by Tesco and we know how ethical they have been about all of this ;)

  • rate this

    Comment number 461.

    450. Mike

    'Question everything....Trust no-one!!!!'

    Shopping with you must be a nightmare. Do you ask your greengrocer to prove the provenance of his carrots? Have you DNA tested that tin of beans you bought yesterday? Do you investigate the provenance of every bottle of wine you buy? Nice soundbite ... not practical though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 460.

    Why does this whole thing feel like a giant, meat-oriented game of 'Bingo!'

    What's the next product to tick off ? What happens when someone makes a line ? Worrying really.

  • rate this

    Comment number 459.

    The flak I've taken over the years - including being told that "they should make you eat meat", constantly asked if I'd eat human if I was in a plane crash, physically threatened; turned down a burger at a BBQ & nearly punched for it! Bullied by adults, ostracised, criticised, mocked, condemned, told not to tell kids in case they question meat eating. It's been vicious - damned right I'm smug.

  • rate this

    Comment number 458.

    I no longer trust anything I read on a food label, Organic? 100%? No artificial preservatives, flavours or additives? I do not even trust the nutritional information, the bigger the innocent corporation then the less I believe. Every one of them has made sure their hands are clean in every step, this is how we know they are guilty of every step. I do not buy 'meat' anymore, whatever they label it

  • rate this

    Comment number 457.

    "444. Anglerfish
    438. RobinTheBoyWonder
    Of course. Just makes the point that labelling is pointless unless the supply chain is trustworthy. It's just that finding horse in a product labelled 'beef' is a bit more obviously fraud."

    Totally agree, I was just pointing out that ALL supplies seem doubtful at the moment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 456.

    Horse meat is the least of the problems, I want to know why they find it acceptable to put birds eyes in our dinner?

  • rate this

    Comment number 455.

    Is it just me?

    If you expect to pay £1 for a Lasagne where do you think the money comes from for Ingredients, preparation, distribution, salaries, premises, and regulation/quality control of suppliers.

    Fraud is wrong, but our attitudes need to change to food and what we are prepared to pay.

  • rate this

    Comment number 454.

    Seems the Food standards agency are just as slow and inactive as the Finacial standards agency was under the last government. Why are we paying these mandarins large sums to do nothing? Confidence in the UK - NO!
    May be if they were privaised things may be better.

  • rate this

    Comment number 453.

    "Buy British meat!"

    Yeah, I'd love to but how can I be sure it's British? It might say British on the packet, but it also said beef on the packet, and we now know it wasn't beef.

    Anyone know of a group that are coming together with a view to a big lawsuit?

    We bought burgers every other week for 12 months and I feel royally conned.

  • rate this

    Comment number 452.

    446. TRojandog

    'If I buy a Land Rover, it will be made by Land Rover.'

    Owned by Tata Motors, India. And do you know where all the component parts come from? Modern supply chains are massively complicated and that gives plenty of opportunities for fraud ... even with motor components.

  • rate this

    Comment number 451.

    Why don't the news medis press home the point that this is a food safety issue. It has been proved that meat from unapproved sources can enter the food chain. This shows that the checks put in place to prevent unspecified animal material entering post BSE are not working. Is condemnned beef entering. A few years ago condemmned chicked was washed in bleach and sold back by UK criminals.


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