Results from the first set of UK tests on beef products for horsemeat have in the main cleared the country’s retailers.
Products from Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, The Co-operative Group and Iceland Foods tested negative for traces of horsemeat in the first tests for horse DNA carried out on own-brand beef products.
In the UK, one of the countries at the centre of the saga, the country’s Food Standards Agency had requested all retailers carry out tests on their private-label beef products, which were due in today.
The FSA said it had received 2,501 results, of which 2,472 tested negative for the presence of horse DNA and 29 were positive. It said 950 tests are still in progress.
Seven products tested positive for the presence of horsemeat against the FSA’s threshold but were products that had already been withdrawn from sale. These included frozen burgers from Tesco and the Co-op, frozen lasagne from Aldi and the Findus frozen lasagnes.
However, it emerged cottage pie served in schools and burgers in hospitals have tested positive.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said UK retailers had carried out over a thousand tests on processed beef products over the last three weeks – two-thirds of the products they set out to test.
“We have taken decisive, extensive action to deal with incidents since mid-January and worked round the clock to gather meaningful data quickly. [The results] show that retailers operate to high standards and customers are right to have confidence in them and what they sell,” said BRC director general Helen Dickinson.
“The retail sector is leading the food industry in working to understand what has happened, to ensure our systems are effective and to reassure consumers. Two-thirds of the processed beef products retailers set out to test have already been tested but testing will continue and more results published.”
FSA chief executive Catherine Brown said: “It’s encouraging that we have received so many results from industry so quickly, which reaffirms their commitment to working with us to address the serious issue of consumer confidence in the UK food supply. Further results are expected over the coming weeks and the FSA will publish another update this time next week.”
Tesco said test results on 149 of its products were all clear, while The Co-op said test on 59 of its products received back so far showed negative for horse DNA.
Sainsbury’s issued to statement to confirm its test results were negative. “No trace of horsemeat has been found in any of our products, however we are playing our part in the wider industry investigation including carrying out further testing. These have all been negative to date, if we find any horse DNA in our products we will take immediate action,” it said.
Morrisons also said it had found no contamination in the 68 test results it has had back. The retailer, however, said earlier this week it had recalled Dinos branded continental meats from shelves at the 11 stores the product is stocked at as a precaution. A spokesperson told just-food tests were being carried out by the manufacturer and a decision on re-stocking would not be made until the test results were in.
Iceland Foods likewise issued a statement confirming all its own-brand products containing beef had been checked and results showed them to be clear of any contamination.
Last night, Asda, the country’s second-largest retailer, recalled fresh sauce manufactured by private-label giant Greencore after finding horse DNA in the line – the first product outside the frozen aisle to become embroiled in the contamination scandal.