Frozen spaghetti and lasagna meals were removed from supermarket shelves this week in the U.K. following the discovery that products advertised as beef actually contained between 60% and 100% horsemeat, reports the BBC. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has ordered all British food companies to test their processed beef products before Feb. 15.
The Findus Group, a multinational food business with headquarters in the U.K., came under the spotlight earlier this week when it announced that it had found horsemeat made up the majority — or in some cases, all — of the meat in 11 out of 18 beef lasagna meals. The chief executive of the FSA, Catherine Brown, told the BBC that she believed the contamination was the intentional result of fraud rather than just a mistake. “I have to say that the two cases of gross contamination that we see here indicates that it is highly likely there has been criminal and fraudulent activity involved,” she said.
“We are demanding that food businesses conduct authenticity tests on all beef products, such as beefburgers, meatballs and lasagne, and provide the results to the FSA.”
The Findus discovery follows a line of meat scandals that have affected organizations in Ireland, France, Poland and Britain. The controversy over horsemeat in beef products arose in early January when the Food Safety Authority of Ireland discovered horsemeat in the Irish Silvercrest beef burgers.
Although there is no proof that horsemeat itself is a food safety risk, tests are being carried on all lasagna products for the veterinary anti-inflammatory drug phenylbutazone. Also known as bute, it can cause rare cases of a serious blood disorder and was banned from use in humans after it was discovered that 1 in 30,000 recipients suffered serious side effects, writes the Food Standards Agency. Bute is prohibited from entering the food production chain.
U.K. supermarkets Tesco and Aldi have already removed all frozen spaghetti bolognese and beef lasagna products from their stores. A member of the Labor party, Mary Creagh, has highlighted the importance of testing all this meat that has been withdrawn from shelves. “We’ve had 10 million beefburgers withdrawn. What tests have been conducted on them, if any?” she asked on BBC radio. “The big concern for me now is corner shops, schools, hospitals, prisons, public-sector caterers, people who may have these products sitting in their fridges and freezers.” However, the U.K. Food Minister David Heath has advised consumers to keep eating meat until told otherwise, saying there is no reason to believe there is any serious health risk, according to the BBC.