Radio Sandwell News

Horsemeat row: Don't dump meat, says food minister

2013-02-08 20:01:02

People should not throw away frozen meat products in the wake of the revelations about horsemeat in Findus lasagne, the food minister has said.

David Heath advised consumers to carry on eating meat unless told otherwise.

The Food Standards Agency has asked UK firms to test all processed beef foods, but said it did not "suspect there is any health issue with frozen food".

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson is to hold a summit with heads of meat retailers and suppliers on Saturday.

Food Minister Mr Heath said the government's advice was "exactly that" of the FSA's.

"The FSA says there is no reason to suppose there is a health risk and therefore the advice is to carry on with normal shopping habits until you are told otherwise," he told the BBC.


But shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh has expressed fears that other contaminated foods may be found.

'Criminal activity'

Earlier this week, a third-party French supplier alerted Findus to concerns that the beef lasagne product did not "conform to specification".

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) said Findus had tested the meat in 18 of its beef lasagne products and found 11 meals in which it contained between 60% and 100% horsemeat.

Findus has withdrawn the meals. Comigel, the French supplier, said it had withdrawn all products related to its supplier.

The FSA said it was "highly likely" criminal activity was to blame for the contamination.

Andy Foster, of the Trading Standards Institute, also said deliberate fraudulent activity, not accidental contamination, could be to blame.

In other developments:

* Ms Creagh says she has contacted police to pass on information concerning UK companies who are potentially involved in the illegal horsemeat trade

* The GMB union says all hospitals, schools and meals-on-wheels services should verify that horsemeat has not been served to vulnerable people

* Trading standards and environmental health bodies say their officers across the UK are on "high alert"

* Findus says it is "sorry that we have let people down", in a fresh statement

FSA chief executive Catherine Brown told the BBC: "We are demanding that food businesses conduct authenticity tests on all beef products, such as beefburgers, meatballs and lasagne, and provide the results to the FSA."

The FSA's website advises consumers: "There is no reason to suspect that there's any health issue with frozen food in general, and we wouldn't advise people to stop eating it."



Peter Kendall, president of the National Farmers' Union, said farmers who had suffered from food scares in the past were "furious" over the horsemeat revelations because they had already "raised their game".

He urged consumers to buy British meat to be sure of what they are eating.


Findus is the latest company to be caught up in the controversy surrounding contamination of meat products, which has affected firms in the UK, Irish Republic, Poland and France.

Last month, Irish food inspectors announced they had found horsemeat in some burgers stocked by a number of UK supermarket chains, including Tesco, Iceland and Lidl.

Ms Creagh expressed fears there were further revelations to come from the food industry.

"What we have had over the last four weeks is a constant drip, drip, drip of revelations from the food industry, from the Food Standards Agency, and what I am worried about is that the more they are testing for horse, the more they are finding," Ms Creagh said.

She suggested further guidance was needed on whether people should eat other processed foods labelled as containing beef.

Mr Heath said the FSA was undertaking the "biggest testing of beef products that has ever taken place" in order to offer reassurance.

Prime Minister David Cameron, speaking in Brussels, described the latest revelations as "very shocking" and "completely unacceptable".

A statement from the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) said it "deplores the latest reported incidents of gross contamination of some processed meat products".

It urged members to review their raw material and ingredients-sourcing procedures.

The supermarket chain Aldi was also advised to withdraw its Today's Special Frozen Beef Lasagne and Today's Special Frozen Spaghetti Bolognese by French supplier Comigel.

An Aldi spokesman said the meals had been withdrawn immediately and it was carrying out its own investigations.

Source: bbc.co.uk

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