The U.K.‘s Food Standards Agency (FSA) today revealed that horse meat was found during the DNA testing of beef products. The beef products tested would have been found in school and restaurant meals.
The DNA testing, so far, covers 2,501 samples. Of these, 29 of the samples were found to be positive for presence of horse DNA at or above the level of 1%.
“Since this incident began on 16 January, businesses have been carrying out a large number of tests,” said Catherine Brown, FSA Chief Executive. “We said that industry should share those results with us, and the public, and we asked for the first results to be with us today. The results so far date from when businesses began their testing four weeks ago. They include results which were received by companies up to around 10am this morning.”
Companies were asked to test composite beef products, such as burgers. The FSA report shows that horse meat was found in beef burgers, beef lasagne, and spaghetti bolognese.
Though those 29 positive samples make up less than 2% of all the samples tested, that’s still too much for the FSA.
“We’ve asked industry to test for horse DNA down to a level of 1%,” said Brown. “There are two reasons for this. First, that’s a pragmatic level above which we think any contamination would be due to either gross incompetence or deliberate fraud; it’s not going to be accidental. Second, some laboratories can only test accurately down to a level of 1%.
“But that does not mean that we’re not concerned with, or that we accept, levels below 1%. In terms of faith groups, there remains a significant issue about trace levels of other species below 1%. So we have a separate programme of work under way with Defra to look at the issues around that, too.”
The horse meat scandal in the U.K. began in January, when horse meat was found in beef products sold in Ireland.
Though the cases were not explicitly linked to the horse meat scandal, police this week have arrested several individuals from the Peter Boddy Slaughterhouse in Todmorden, West Yorkshire. Police have also conducted related raids in Hull and Tottenham, where they collected “computers and documentary evidence”, as well as “meat samples.”