Jan 16 2013 By Cheryl Mullin
SUPPLIERS in continental Europe are suspected of being the source of horse meat found in beef products, a processing firm has claimed.
Scientific tests found traces of horse DNA in burgers on sale in some of the UK and Ireland's leading supermarkets.
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) found low levels of horse in beef products sold in Tesco, Lidl, Aldi, Iceland and Dunnes Stores.
Burger products which tested positive for horse DNA were produced by Liffey Meats and Silvercrest Foods in Ireland and one UK plant, Dalepak Hambleton. Silvercrest, a subsidiary of ABP Foods, said it was pulling products from sale and replacing them with new lines.
A spokesman said: "Following tests carried out by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, we have been alerted to frozen beefburgers which contain porcine and equine DNA. Although the products pose no risk to public health, Silvercrest has taken immediate action to isolate, withdraw and replace all suspect product. Silvercrest has never purchased or traded in equine product and has launched a full-scale investigation into two continental European third party suppliers who are the suspected source of the product in question."
According to the research by the FSAI, one sample - Tesco Everyday Value Beef Burgers - showed about 29% horse meat relative to beef content.
Professor Alan Reilly, chief executive of the FSAI, said there was no health risk but also no reasonable explanation for horse meat to be found.
"Whilst there is a plausible explanation for the presence of pig DNA in these products due to the fact that meat from different animals is processed in the same meat plants, there is no clear explanation at this time for the presence of horse DNA in products emanating from meat plants that do not use horse meat in their production process," Prof Reilly said.
The retailers have told food safety chiefs they are removing all implicated products from their shelves. Tim Smith, group technical director at Tesco, said: "We are working with the authorities in Ireland and the UK, and with the supplier concerned, to urgently understand how this has happened and how to ensure it does not happen again."
Aldi said it was conducting its own investigation. In a statement, Lidl said it has taken the decision to remove all implicated products from sale pending a full investigation.