Tuesday 20 February 2018

Birds Eye withdraws beef meals from Ireland in new horsemeat scandal

Sodexo has withdrawn beef from its UK sites after product tests showed traces of equine DNA
Sodexo has withdrawn beef from its UK sites after product tests showed traces of equine DNA

Birds Eye is withdrawing three beef ready meals from sale in Ireland and Britain.

The move follows tests that found 2% of horse DNA in a chilli con carne dish which is sold by Birds Eye in Belgium.

Its spaghetti bolognese, shepherd's pie and lasagne are made by the same Belgian manufacturer, Frigilunch N.V., and are being withdrawn "as a precautionary measure".

In a statement, Birds Eye said: "We want to reassure you from the testing we have completed that all Birds Eye beef burgers, beef pies and beef platters do not contain horse DNA. Regrettably, we have found one product, chilli con carne, produced for us by Frigilunch N.V. and sold in Belgium, that has tested positive for horse DNA at 2%.

"Whilst this is not a food safety issue, it is clearly unacceptable. In accordance with our high standards, we are immediately withdrawing this product from sale. As a precautionary measure in the UK and Ireland we will withdraw all other products produced by the same supplier, namely traditional spaghetti bolognese 340g, shepherd's pie 400g and lasagne 400g."

Iglo Foods Group, which owns Birds Eye and Findus, said it had been carrying out checks on all of its beef products after other manufacturers reported their foods had been contaminated with horse meat. The chilli con carne is the only product that they have found to contain equine DNA.

The Birds Eye products taken off UK supermarket shelves will not be replaced until further tests have been carried out, the company said.

Customers who purchased any of the products affected will be given a refund if they contact Birds Eye consumer services.

Birds Eye said in the statement: "The quality of our food is of the utmost importance to us. We know that our consumers rely on us to be certain that they are eating only what is labelled on the packaging and that they can always rely on us to act responsibly. Iglo Foods Group has introduced an ongoing DNA testing programme and we have enhanced our normal quality assurance procedures.

"This will help us ensure that we continue to reach the standards that all our consumers expect from our products. We want to apologise to consumers and reassure them that we will keep them fully informed and that we are taking action to deal with this issue."

The Birds Eye announcement comes as Britain's Food Standards Agency prepares to publish the results of its latest round of industry tests on meat products later. The FSA has told the food industry to share the results of product tests, which look for horse DNA down to a level of 1%, with the aim of increasing consumer confidence.

Results of the industry tests on 2,501 beef products collated by the FSA last week revealed 29 positive results, relating to Aldi's special frozen beef lasagne and special frozen spaghetti bolognese, Co-op frozen quarter-pounder burgers, Findus beef lasagne, Rangeland's catering burger products, and Tesco value frozen burgers and value spaghetti bolognese.

Pub and hotel group Whitbread has also pulled lasagne and burgers from its menus after admitting horse DNA had been found in its food.

Horse meat has been discovered in school dinners, with cottage pies testing positive for horse DNA sent to 47 Lancashire schools before being withdrawn.

The FSA said this week that its own tests for horse meat in processed meat products were being expanded to ensure a wide range of products was sampled.

The first phase of tests concentrated on samples of minced beef products being checked for horse and pork DNA, while the second phase involved samples of beef-based ready meals.

The third phase will include products marketed or labelled as containing beef as a major ingredient. Products including gelatine, beef dripping, stock cubes, steak, stewing steak as well as ready meals which contain beef that is not minced are included. Testing on the third phase is due to begin next week.

Peter Marks, chief executive of the Co-op, wrote to more than a million of the company's members today to apologise for "meat contamination" in its products.

Two lines of frozen own-brand beefburgers, made with meat supplied by Irish manufacturer Silvercrest Foods, were withdrawn from sale by the firm after they were found to contain horse DNA.

Mr Marks wrote: "I believe that, as a result of this food scandal, we have let you down. The discovery of meat contamination in two of our own-brand products has caused you to question the trust that you can place in us as a food retailer.

"I strongly believe that all food retailers must accept ultimate accountability for the products we sell to our customers. We cannot blame the Government or the regulators, or even our suppliers. At the end of the day, the buck stops here."

He also told members that the first 76 products of 102 own-brand products sent for testing were negative for horse meat contamination, with further results expected later.

The Co-op is to review its meat supply chain in light of the scandal, he added.

Press Association

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