Horse meat testing expanded

TESTING FOR horse meat will be extended to include stock cubes, stewing steak and gelatine. In all, 514 products will be tested, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has announced. The full results will be published.


The sampling for the first two phases will be carried out by 28 local authorities and will include beef-based foods that are sold pre-packed, or ‘loose’ (for example, cafe sandwiches). Sampling for the third phase will be allocated to other local authorities across the UK.


The results so far, are available here and details of the three phases of investigation are below.


On Monday, environment secretary Owen Paterson called in retailers, manufacturers and wholesalers to provide an update on the progress they were making on their tests for horse meat.


Though the British Hospitality Association was in attendance, there were no representatives from the Local Authority Caterers Association or the Hospital Caterers Association.


On Friday, February 15th, horse DNA was found in beef products provided by Compass and Whitbread. It was also found in cottage pies supplied to 47 schools in Lancashire.


The news prompted an attack on the catering sector and local authorities by the head of Iceland. In an interview with the BBC on Sunday, February 17th, Malcolm Walker blamed the “invisible” catering sector for driving down food quality and using “back street manufacturers”.


He said: “If we’re going to blame somebody let’s start with local authorities, because there’s a whole side to this industry which is invisible – that’s the catering industry. Schools, hospitals – it’s massive business for cheap food and local authorities award contracts based purely on one thing – price.”


The LACA said it was “disappointed” with Walker’s comments. A statement read: “LACA disagrees with his comments as quite the reverse has happened in schools. Local authorities across the country have been totally supportive of driving food standards up in schools over the last few years.”

The testing regime – update:


Phase 1: 224 samples of raw comminuted (minced) beef products including burgers, minced beef, beef sausage or meat balls checked for horse and pork DNA.
 Status: This phase is ongoing and is part of the original protocol.


Phase 2: 140 samples of beef-based ready meals including frozen, chilled or canned lasagne, chilli con carne, cottage pie, ravioli, cannelloni and spaghetti bolognese checked for horse and pork DNA.
 Status: This new phase began on 14 February and sampling will be completed on February 22nd.


Phase 3: 150 samples will be taken as part of a European Commission survey (official control programme) and checked for horse DNA. These include products marketed or labelled as containing beef as a major ingredient such as minced meat, meat products and meat preparations (such as kebabs with seasoning). Products such as gelatine, beef dripping, stock cubes, steak, stewing steak and ready meals which contain beef that is not minced, are included.  Status: Work is scheduled to start the week beginning February 25th.


The FSA will publish the results from all three phases of the study, including brand names. Initial findings will be available from the end of February and the FSA will disclose any formal action taken in April.