FROZEN food firm Findus has reiterated its apology over some of its beef lasagne products containing horse meat, after claims that the contamination could stretch back to last summer.
The company said it was “sorry that we have let people down” and confirmed it carried out a full product recall on Monday, two days before DNA tests confirmed that some of its products contained up to 100% horse meat and it alerted the Food Standards Agency.
But it did not respond to claims by Labour MP Tom Watson that it sent a letter to retailers on Monday warning that a France-based supplier had told it there may be problems with raw materials delivered since August 1 last year.
A Findus spokesman said: “At Findus UK our first priority is our customers and providing quality products they can trust.
“But we know that many people have been concerned by the news this week that tests have shown that some of our Findus beef lasagne has been found to contain horse meat.
“We understand those concerns; we are sorry that we have let people down.”
The Department for Education said today that any schools with concerns about food should “contact their caterer or local authority immediately”.
Agriculture and Food Minister David Heath said people should carry on with their usual shopping habits until they are told to do otherwise.
He told BBC Radio 4’s The World At One that he was “staggered” by the recent findings, but added: “If there is any risk whatsoever, people will be told.”
He said: “The FSA have now asked retailers and processors to test every single one of their processed beef products to make sure they are what they say they are.
“On the basis of that, we should be in a position very shortly to have very clear picture of what is happening.
“But I cannot honestly say at the moment that the content of every burger is as it should be because we haven’t got the evidence to do so.”
He said there was “every probability” that an element of criminality was involved, and food agencies and police across Europe were investigating what had happened.
The Department for Education issued a statement saying that schools and councils were responsible for their food contracts.
A spokesman said: “We expect all schools to ensure they have rigorous procurement procedures in place.
“If headteachers have any concerns, they should contact their caterers or local authority immediately.”
A spokeswoman for the Local Authority Caterers Association (Laca) said: “We are as sure as we can be that this is not affecting the school catering area.”
She added that there were “strict guidelines” around food safety and supplying dinners in schools, including transparency and traceability of ingredient provenance, written into contracts.