Horsemeat Burgers: FSA Threatens Legal Action
The UK food watchdog is considering whether legal action should be taken against companies at the centre of the scandal over horsemeat found in beef burgers.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) said it would consult relevant local authorities and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) before making a decision to take action.
After a meeting with food industry representatives, the FSA said it would continue a review of the traceability of the food products identified in an FSAI survey which uncovered the scandal.
In one case, testing revealed up to 29% of a Tesco burger was horse meat, while pig products were found in items labelled beef.
The FSA said it would try to further understand how the contamination took place and help to carry out a UK-wide study of food authenticity in meat products.
Environment minister David Heath told the Commons standards were generally very high in the British food industry and backed the FSA's risk-based checking system.
He told Labour shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh: "It is very important neither you, nor anyone else in this House, talks down the British food industry at a time when the standards in that industry are of a very high level.
But Ms Creagh said there was "understandable" public anger and added: "Consumers who avoid pork for religious reasons will be upset they may have unwittingly eaten it and eating horse is strongly culturally taboo in the United Kingdom.
"The food industry lobbies vigorously for a light-touch regulation system from Government. Testing, tracking and tracing ingredients is expensive but not testing will cost retailers, processors, British farmers and consumers much more."
Ms Creagh also raised questions about the responsibility for food labelling, which she said the Government split between the FSA, the Department for Health and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
An FSA spokesperson told Sky News: "Defra is the policy lead on areas such as food authenticity, food composition, labelling. But if food is found to not be fulfilling the requirements on these issues, the FSA would take action and investigate."
Meanwhile Tim Lang, professor of food policy at City University in London, warned horse meat could have been in beef burgers for years but remained undetected because of insufficient food regulation.
He blamed the findings on light industry regulations, tweeting: "Horse meat in beef burgers suggests failings in corporate food governance.
"Law clear - 'food shall be of nature, substance and quality demanded'."
Tesco placed full-page adverts in a number of national newspapers apologising to customers and has also promised to refund those who bought the contaminated products.
In the advertisement, entitled "We apologise", the supermarket said: "While the FSAI has said that the products pose no risk to public health, we appreciate that, like us, our customers will find this absolutely unacceptable ... We and our supplier have let you down and we apologise."
The food company at the centre of the scandal - ABP Food Group - vowed to adopt strict DNA testing of its products to prevent a repeat.
The company, one of Europe's biggest suppliers and processors, is being investigated by health and agriculture authorities in the UK and Ireland and it also sent operatives to Continental suppliers to make unannounced visits.
Two of its subsidiaries - Silvercrest Foods in Ireland and Dalepak Hambleton in Yorkshire - supplied beef burgers with traces of equine DNA to supermarkets, including the product classed as 29% horse.
An ABP spokeswoman said: "It is vital that the integrity of the supply chain is assured and we are committed to restoring consumer confidence.
A third company, Liffey meats, based in Co Cavan, Ireland, was also found to be supplying products to supermarkets with traces of horse DNA.
Suppliers in the Netherlands and Spain have been identified as the possible sources for incorrectly labelled ingredients.
The results of the FSAI survey, verified in laboratories in Germany, showed low levels of horse in beef products sold in Tesco, Lidl, Aldi, Iceland and Dunnes Stores in Ireland.
Some burgers were also being sold in the UK but retailers insisted all suspect brands had been taken off the shelves within hours of the findings being released on Tuesday evening.
The scandal saw nearly 1% - or roughly £300m - wiped off the value of supermarket Tesco on Wednesday. Shares recovered slightly on Thursday.
Prime Minister David Cameron said supermarkets had to take responsibility for what he said was an extremely disturbing case.
The FSAI analysed 27 beef burger products with best before dates from last June to March 2014 with 10 of the 27 products - 37% - testing positive for horse DNA and 85% testing positive for pig DNA.
The tests found horse DNA in the following products: Tesco Everyday Value Beef Burgers 29.1%, Tesco Beef Quarter Pounders 0.1%, Oakhurst Beef Burgers in Aldi 0.3%, Moordale Quarter Pounders in Lidl 0.1%, Flamehouse Chargrilled Quarter Pounders in Dunnes Stores 0.1%, and two varieties of Iceland Quarter Pounders 0.1%.
Ten million burgers have been taken off shelves as a result of the scandal.
Liffey Meats said it believed horse DNA was originally contained in raw ingredient marked "bovine only", supplied by an EU approved factory and were minute traces.
In a statement, the company said: "Liffey Meats has never produced, purchased or traded any equine products."
:: The FSAI operates an advice line on 1890 33 66 77 from 9am-5pm, and in the UK the FSA general help line is 020 7276 8829.
what do you think?
So what? Horsemeat is eaten and enjoyed in many countries. I'd be more interested to know the percentage of a beefburger that was actually beef.
I think the issue is we don't know what's going into our food. Not the debate on whether horse should be eaten or not. Plus people don't eat pork for religious reasons and yet it was found present in certain products also.
So is dog, so would you be happy eating that?
I wouldn't be too yappy about it, I might end up feeling ruff ! (Sorry Robert)
We have a very long tradition here of not consuming 'hot blooded' animals.
Be interesting to see if they've got the guts to do something or if its all talk!
If it was a food outlet they would be shut down. Do the same!
I must admit that we never bought any of this type of product from any supermarket, because of a nagging doubt about what went into them. Now we know. Quite apart from any other considerations, you might also say that it's a bit of a swine.
Legal action against which companies, the retailers, the processers or the meat suppliers who may be overseas ?
This was not brought to anyones attention because of anyone getting sick, so probably loads have been consumed without anyone realising, but now 10 million have been removed from shelves and will probably be destroyed when there are how many people starving in the world...absolutely ridiculous.
Kevin. A very good point. Half the world is starving and we are about to destroy hundreds of tons of perfectly edible, though to us unpalatable, food
It will probably go into petfood.....or pies.
This was not brought to anyones attention because someone got sick, so more than likely many have been consumed already but now 10 million will be taken off shelves and destroyed when we have how many millions starving......absolutely ridiculous?
you eat them then
Quite agree Kevin,horse is totally edible.The only problem here is it wasn't on the label and I bet Tesco knew what was going on.Still,if the British public keep demanding everything cheap then this is what happens and will continue to happen.
This burger saga takes me back a few years, Mad cow disease they called it linked to CJD. Then they tried to continue supplying schools and suchlike with the surplus burgers until the ensuing scandal stopped it .Horsemeat is safe to eat but if we wont eat it ourselves lets make sure our kids don't
i had one of those burgers, it tasted ok but it gave me the trots, i am stable now though but i have had to rein in my eating habits, now i am chomping at the bit for a real burger.
Yawn, these have been done to death
Lol, you want a real burger? I'm a vegetarian though. Try a uniquorn burger, they're tasty :) Sorry Robert :)
It's not so much the fact they had horse meat in them It's the fact we have standards in place to stop and control all products entering the food chain. And it's this breach of control that's concerning . Horse meat is actually better for you than beef
I'd rather eat horse burgers than the rubbish in beef burgers. I'd more more concerned about the other garbage put in them. at least it's the cause of a new wave of funny jokes on facebook.
But I think the issue is that people should be given a choice. If they want to eat horse then let them. If you don't because of sentimental reasons then that's your choice. I don't eat lamb because they are so cute and fluffy and that's my choice. Agreed about the Facebook jokes tho. Poor taste but the one with the cow mounting the horse saying lets make a burger did make me chuckle.
As Horses are not 'farmed' but slaughtered at end of usefull life we in britain don't eat it. They could be unwanted ponies off the moors or anywhere. There was a terrible cruel trade of live exports for slaughter that was stopped here.
The FSA is ''considering taking action'' ? Against the mighty Tesco ? When Nelson gets his eye back.
Well chaps, this has spurred me on to buy better quality food products. I jumped when I heard the news, maybe buy a saddle of beef the next time.
Yet another agency supposedly there to protect consumers is considering legal action to enforce standards. Don't talk about it DO IT!
FSA probably only eat horse burgers. After all, they're all pretty lean and mean. Particularly with our money.