UK/IRELAND: Tesco pulls burgers after horse meat traces found

By Chris Mercer | 16 January 2013

Tesco has recalled some ranges of burgers in Ireland and the UK after food safety officials reported finding traces of horse meat in samples on sale in its stores, as well as in other retailers' outlets.

Horse meat DNA was present in ten out of 27 beef burger products analysed by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI). It named Tesco, Aldi, Lidl, Iceland and Dunnes Stores as affected by what has the potential to be a damaging investigation for those retailers' public image.

FSAI said that nine out of the ten burger samples that tested 'positive' showed horse meat DNA at very low levels. However, it said one sample from Tesco showed horse meat accounted for around 29% of the product's beef content.

In a statement issued last night (15 January), Tesco's group technical director, Tim Smith, said the affected samples were two frozen beer burger products on sale at stores in the UK and Ireland. "We immediately withdrew from sale all products from the supplier in question," he said.

While Smith stressed that there were no public health concerns, he added: "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.

"We will not take any products from this site until the conclusion and satisfactory resolution of an investigation.

"The safety and quality of our food is of the highest importance to Tesco. We will not tolerate any compromise in the quality of the food we sell."

FSAI said that it has traced the beef burger products affected to the Liffey Meats and Silvercrest Foods processing plants in Ireland and the Dalepak Hambleton plant in the UK.

FSAI CEO, Prof. Alan Reilly, said: "There is no clear explanation at this time for the presence of horse DNA in products emanating from meat plants that do not use horsemeat in their production process."

Show the press release

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) today published the findings of a targeted study examining the authenticity of a number of beef burger, beef meal and salami products available from retail outlets in Ireland.  The study which tested for the presence of horse and pig DNA, reveals the presence of horse DNA in some beef burger products.  The FSAI states this raises concerns in relation to the traceability of meat ingredients and products entering the food chain.

A total of 27 beef burger products were analysed with 10 of the 27 products (37%) testing positive for horse DNA and 23 (85%) testing positive for pig DNA.  In addition, 31 beef meal products (cottage pie, beef curry pie, lasagne, etc) were analysed of which 21 were positive for pig DNA and all were negative for horse DNA.  All 19 salami products analysed tested negative for horse DNA.  Traces of horse DNA were also detected in batches of raw ingredients, including some imported from The Netherlands and Spain.

The beef burger products which tested positive for horse DNA were produced by two processing plants (Liffey Meats and Silvercrest Foods) in Ireland and one plant (Dalepak Hambleton) in the UK.  They were on sale in Tesco, Dunnes Stores, Lidl, Aldi and Iceland.  In nine of the ten beef burger samples from these retailers, horse DNA was found at very low levels.  However, in one sample from Tesco, the level of horse DNA indicated that horsemeat accounted for approximately 29% relative to the beef content. The FSAI is working with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, and the processing plants and retailers involved.  The retailers have stated that they are removing all implicated batches from sale today.  In addition, Silvercrest Foods has informed the FSAI that it is withdrawing all products from sale and replacing them with new products.

According to Prof. Alan Reilly, Chief Executive, FSAI, whilst these findings pose no risk to public health they do raise some concerns.  He states: “The products we have identified as containing horse DNA and/or pig DNA do not pose any food safety risk and consumers should not be worried.  Consumers who have purchased any of the implicated products can return them to their retailer.”

“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 horsemeat in their production process.  In Ireland, it is not in our culture to eat horsemeat and therefore, we do not expect to find it in a burger.  Likewise, for some religious groups or people who abstain from eating pig meat, the presence of traces of pig DNA is unacceptable.  We are working with the meat processing plants and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and the Marine to find out how horse DNA could have found its way into these products,” concludes Prof. Reilly.

The FSAI and its official agencies carry out a number of surveys and studies each year as part of its proactive monitoring activities.  These product surveys provide a snapshot of the status of products on the market at specific time.  The legal responsibility for placing safe food on the market lies with the food industry and the FSAI routinely monitors and samples for compliance. 

The FSAI operates an Advice Line on 1890 33 66 77 from 9.00am-5.00pm.

Original source:

Sectors: Food safety, Meat & poultry

Companies: Tesco, Aldi, Lidl, Dunnes Stores

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