The FSA said the extension is to “ensure that a wider range of products are sampled”

The FSA said the extension is to “ensure that a wider range of products are sampled”

The UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA) is to double its testing of meat products in the wake of the horsemeat contamination scandal.

The agency said it is including beef-based foods sold pre-packed, or loose, such as cafe sandwiches.

The FSA is undertaking an ongoing survey of 224 samples of minced beef products including burgers, minced beef, beef sausage and meat balls to check for horse and pork DNA. Two further phases will take the total number of products sampled to 514.

The agency said the extension is to "ensure that a wider range of products are sampled".

The sampling for the first two phases are being carried out by 28 local authorities, with a third phase to be allocated to "other local authorities" across the UK, it said.

The second phase, which began last Thursday, is testing 140 samples of beef-based ready-meals and are due to be complete by Friday. The third test phase, which comprises 150 samples, will be taken as part of a European Commission survey and will include products - yet to be decided by the FSA - labelled as "containing beef as a major ingredient". Test are expected to begin on 25 February.

The presence of horsemeat in products on sale in the UK emerged after tests by food safety officials in Ireland and the FSA has faced criticism over its system of tests.

At a meeting of the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee earlier this month, the FSA's top executives were asked if the agency's systems would have picked up on the presence on horsemeat. They were also quizzed about how often the FSA tested for horsemeat.

Catherine Brown, chief executive of the FSA, said the tests used by the FSA's counterpart in Ireland that picked up the horse DNA were "not an accredited methodology we commonly use".

She insisted the FSA's tests would have found the contamination but admitted the agency would not have tested for horse DNA in the first place as that was not on its list of priorities for 2013.