FOUR beef products sold by Birds Eye , Taco Bell and catering supplier Brakes have been found to contain horse DNA in the latest round of tests following the horsemeat scandal, the Food Standards Agency confirmed yesterday.
The third round of tests carried out since January revealed contamination of Birds Eye Traditional Spaghetti Bolognese and Beef Lasagne, Taco Bell’s ground beef and Brakes’ spicy minced beef skewer.
Ten tests on the four products returned results of more than 1 per cent horsemeat, the agency said, and all four have been withdrawn from sale.
The findings come after a leading Church of Scotland minister branded the horsemeat scandal “a scam of massive proportions.”
The Rev Sally Foster-Fulton, Convener of the Kirk’s Church and Society Council, said the the scandal had highlighted how the public treats food as another commodity to be bought as cheaply as possible.
She said: “The scare stories about horsemeat appearing in burgers or lasagne or other prepared meat dishes has a touch of unreality about it. Nobody has been hurt, to the best of our knowledge, and certainly nobody has died.
“Yet it is a scam of massive proportions, and one by one supermarkets and other large food business are being implicated,” she wrote on her blog.
Rev Foster-Fulton urged readers to remember that food is more than just a fuel, but “a gift and a blessing upon which we all depend,” and blamed food culture for our expectation of others to take responsibility for its quality and production.
“All in all it says a lot about how we treat out food as just another commodity to be bought as cheaply as possible and when something goes wrong it is back to the old story of BSE: ‘blame somebody else’,” she added.
Horse meat has recently been found in beef dishes across Europe, including in frozen supermarket dishes and restaurants, and meals served in schools and hospitals.
Authorities have said the fraudulent labeling poses no health risk, but the scandal has drawn attention to the complex supply chain for meat products across Europe.
The FSA said it had conducted 1,797 tests over the last seven days. More than 5,400 products have now been tested in Britain, with over 99 per cent confirmed as clear of horse DNA.
It added that no tests to date on samples containing horse DNA have found the veterinary medicine phenylbutazone (bute), administered to horses as a painkiller.
US-owned restaurant chain Taco Bell said that it was “disappointed” to have discovered the horse meat in beef supplied to its UK restaurants by a sole European supplier.
“We immediately withdrew ground beef from sale in our restaurants, discontinued purchase of that meat, and contacted the Food Standards Agency with this information,” it said in a statement.
“We would like to apologise to all of our customers, and we can reassure you that we are working hard to ensure that every precaution is being undertaken to guarantee that we are only supplied with products that meet the high standards we demand.”
Birds Eye had already withdrawn the spaghetti bolognese, lasagne and a third ready meal, a shepherd’s pie, from sale in Britain and the Republic of Ireland as a precaution after tests found 2 per cent of horse DNA in a chilli con carne dish it sold in Belgium. They are made by the same Belgian manufacturer, Frigilunch NV.
“No other Birds Eye products have tested positive for horse DNA, nor do they share the same supply chains as Frigilunch NV,” the company said in a statement.
“Going forward we are introducing a new ongoing DNA testing programme that will ensure no minced beef meat product can leave our facilities without first having been cleared by DNA testing.”
Earlier on Friday, industry body the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said the latest round of testing by grocers including all the major supermarkets had produced no new positive results.