Food safety officials in the Netherlands and Spain have joined the investigation into horse DNA in frozen beef burgers in the UK and Ireland, after new tests point to ingredients suppliers in Europe.

The head of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has spoken with his Dutch counterpart to ask for help in tracking down the source of the horse and pig DNA discovered in samples of economy beef burgers.

New tests by the FSAI point to a protein ingredients supplier in one member state of the European Union. However, probes by UK and Irish officials are ongoing and there could be more than one source.

“There has been contact today,” a spokesperson for the Netherlands’ Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority told just-food today (18 January).

“We have been asked to do some research, but it is too early to make conclusions. Other countries may also be involved,” a spokesperson for the Dutch agency said. He added that the Dutch agency expects FSAI to pass on the name of at least one specific supplier. 

His comments come a day after Spain’s food safety agency said it was also “in permanent contact with the FSAI” over the issue. It was keen to reiterate that levels of both horse and pig DNA detected in beef products posed no public health risk.

News of the widening scope of the inquiry comes after new FSAI test results, released last night, show one ingredients sample tested positive for horse DNA.

The sample has been traced to a supplier believed to have provided cheap burger filler ingredients to the Liffey Meats, Silvercrest Foods and Dalepak Hambleton processing plants at the centre of the probe.
In an RTE radio interview this morning, Ireland’s agriculture minister, Simon Coveney, said his department has its suspicions about the source of the problem, but warned it was unfair to jump to conclusions by publicly naming specific companies.

In the UK, the Food Standards Agency is still pursuing two investigations and has said it is treating the discovery of low levels of horse DNA separately from the one Tesco beef burger sample that showed horse made up 29% of the meat.   

Meanwhile, the issue continues to disrupt the food supply chain, following initial recalls by Tesco, Aldi, Lidl and Iceland this week, as well as “precautionary” recalls by Sainsbury’s and Asda.

ABP Foods announced last night it would suspend processing at its affected Silvercrest processing plant in Ireland. Products processed by the plant this week have not been released for distribution.  
ABP’s move came after further FSAI tests found horse DNA in a further nine out of 13 frozen burger samples.

“Because trace DNA has been found in finished products tested this week, we have decided that the responsible course of action is to suspend all production at the Silvercrest plant in County Monaghan with immediate effect,” said ABP in a statement. It added that DNA testing will become routine at its business.

Suppliers, processors and retailers involved in the case could face legal action, according to FSAI and FSA.