Financial News

  • 11 April 2013, 7:11

Horsemeat Scare: 50,000 Tons Of 'Beef' Recall

Dutch authorities have recalled 50,000 tons of meat which has been sold as beef across Europe because it may contain horsemeat.

Around 370 different companies in Europe and a further 130 in the Netherlands are affected by the recall because they bought meat from two Dutch trading wholesalers.

Firms have been told to "take it off the market as a precautionary measure" and "verify all products".

A small number of UK businesses may be affected, the Foods Standards Agency said.

The Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) has taken the decision to recall the meat because its exact source cannot be established.

As a result, "its safety cannot be guaranteed", it said, ordering the immediate withdrawal of the beef from sale on Wednesday.

The statement said there was no immediate suggestion of any danger to human health.

"The buyers have probably already processed the meat and sold it on," it said.

"They, in turn, are obliged to inform their own customers."

The Authority does not know where the meat has ended up, but it may have been used in frozen products.

The Dutch wholesalers involved are Wiljo Import en Export B.V. and Vleesgroothandel Willy Selten B.V.

Officials began a large-scale investigation into the country's meat industry in February following revelations across Europe that horsemeat was being sold as beef.

Inspectors examining Willy Selten's records found that the origin of the meat it supplied was unclear.

This makes it impossible for them to confirm whether slaughterhouses have been acting according to procedure.

"It might contain traces of horsemeat, but we don't know for certain at the moment if this is the case," a spokeswoman for the NVWA said.

The Authority has warned its foreign counterparts about the recall via a European rapid alert system.

Sky's Europe Correspondent Robert Nisbet said: "One of these factories that processes meat was raided on February 15.

"Prosecutors at the time said they believed that the management inside was shredding up horsemeat then adding it to beef and selling it on as 100% beef.

"What they (authorities) are saying is that they don't believe that there is horsemeat in all of this 50,000 tons - but they cannot be sure - therefore they want to take it off the shelves and subject it to more tests.

"If you remember the previous horsemeat scandal that was detected from Findus products that was made from Comigel in Luxembourg that was traced back to horsemeat from two Romanian abattoirs. That horsemeat was then sent to another processor in the Netherlands.

"So this would suggest that the Netherlands is an area that people are looking at very closely now in terms of oversight in this massively sprawling industry that runs across Europe.

"Could it be there that many of the problems have originated since this horsemeat scandal blew-up back in January?"

A preliminary investigation by the Romanian government suggested paperwork from the two accused abattoirs was in order and that the livestock entering the facilities were accurately documented.

It also suggested that the meat which emerged from the slaughterhouses was properly labelled, and so therefore the substitution happened elsewhere in the food production chain.

The Europe-wide horsemeat scandal has seen many products pulled from supermarket shelves - damaging confidence in the continent's vast and complex food industry.