Three men who were arrested by police investigating the horse meat mis-labelling scandal have been released on bail, as officials continued to examine evidence today from three more plants.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) said it had passed on evidence from two premises in Tottenham and one in Hull to Europol - the European Union’s law enforcement agency - after investigators, accompanied by police officers and local authority officials, removed meat samples for testing.
The move comes after Dafydd Raw-Rees, 64, the owner of Farmbox Meats near Aberystwyth, and a 42-year-old man, were arrested in Wales on Thursday on suspicion of offences under the Fraud Act.
A 63-year-old man was also arrested on suspicion of the same offence at Peter Boddy Slaughterhouse in Todmorden, West Yorkshire.
The men have been released pending further inquiries and will return to answer bail in Aberystwyth at a later date, Dyfed Powys Police said.
Labour leader Ed Miliband accused the Government of being “slow to get a grip” on the horse meat scandal.
Speaking in Eastleigh, where he was joined by his by-election campaigners, Mr Miliband said ministers had not been “sure-footed” in their response and called for clear guidance for schools and hospitals.
“I think they’ve been too slow to get a grip on this situation,” he told Sky News.
“It’s obviously a very difficult and complex situation but we said right from the beginning that the Government needed to do three things:
“Offer clear guidance, including to schools and hospitals, about what they should be doing.
“Get the testing under way as quickly as possible and make sure the official testing is done, not as it is still planned to do by April, but much quicker.
“And thirdly, get the police involved and make sure there is a proper police investigation.”
He added: “Obviously we want this resolved quickly. We want to get to the bottom of it.
“I think the retailers do have a responsibility but I also think the Government has not been as sure-footed as it should have been in its handling of this.”
The FSA has conceded it is unlikely the exact number of people in the UK who have unwittingly eaten horse meat will ever be known.
Chief executive Catherine Brown said that testing was the right way to address the issue, and said the focus would be on areas of higher risk.
But she admitted that the number of people who had unknowingly eaten horse meat was likely to be impossible to ascertain.
“I don’t think that we ever will (know how many), because these tests are a snapshot, so even where we find things it is very hard to work out how long, what number of batches, so I think it is unlikely that we will ever know that. It is shocking,” she told the BBC.
Her comments came as the head of a major UK supermarket chain insisted that the horse meat scandal was not “the tip of an iceberg”.
Justin King, chief executive of Sainsbury’s told BBC’s Newsnight programme that supermarkets had not been slow to react to the scandal, but conceded there was a long way to go before the food industry could fully explain how the crisis has come about.
He said last night: “I don’t think it’s the tip of an iceberg. I think there are some encouraging signs from today’s tests that we are starting to get to the bottom of this particular issue.
“We, in Sainsbury’s, have a huge testing programme - we have 50-odd people whose full-time jobs are to test product.
“They test raw materials when they come into the factory. The product is delivered to our warehouses and we buy product, as customers do, to test it too. And most of the industry would say something similar.
“So we go to great lengths to ensure our food is what we expect it to be. Trust is the core of our businesses.”