News of a commercially produced lasagne for sale in Britain found to contain more than 60 per cent horse meat has emerged as authorities announced a British testing programme aimed at restoring consumer confidence.
Britain’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) confirmed on Thursday that samples of the meat content of beef lasagne products recalled by Findus had tested positive for more than 60 per cent horse meat.
Findus withdrew the beef lasagne products after its French supplier, Comigel, raised concerns about the type of meat used in the lasagne.
“We have no evidence to suggest that this is a food safety risk,” the agency said. “However, the FSA has ordered Findus to test the lasagne for the veterinary drug phenylbutazone, or ‘bute’.”
Horses treated with the common anti-inflammatory drug are not allowed to enter the food chain as it may pose a risk to human health. Bute in humans can cause rare cases of a serious blood disorder, aplastic anaemia. Because it is not possible to say what triggers the anaemia, it is not possible to identify a safe level of residue in meat.
The FSA said the Findus beef lasagne was distributed to the main British supermarkets and smaller convenience stores. Findus has already begun a full recall of the products.
People who had bought any Findus beef lasagne products were advised not to eat them and return them to the shop they bought them from.
Following the Findus revelations, the FSA announced it was demanding a more comprehensive meat testing programme from food businesses.
FSA chief executive Catherine Brown said: “Following our investigations into Findus products, the FSA is now requiring a more robust response from the food industry in order to demonstrate that the food it sells and serves is what it says it is on the label.
“We are demanding that food businesses conduct authenticity tests on all beef products, such as beef burgers, meatballs and lasagne, and provide the results to the FSA. The tests will be for the presence of significant levels of horse meat.”
The deadline for these results to be provided to the FSA is February 15.
The day before the Findus announcement, the FSA published the protocol for a UK-wide survey of food authenticity in processed meat products.
The programme was drawn up in collaboration with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the devolved rural affairs departments and local authorities.
The survey will use specialised analytical techniques to provide information about the possible presence of horse or pig DNA in a range of beef products available to British consumers. It also aims to identify and understand factors that may lead to the presence of meat species that are not labelled as an ingredient, so that this can be explained, eliminated or correctly labelled.
The programme will be in addition to the preliminary sampling work that has already taken place.
It is planned that 28 local authorities across Britain will take a total of 224 samples in accordance with a detailed protocol. The aim is to select products that are representative of goods on the market. The samples will be taken in such a way that, if necessary, enforcement action can be taken to protect consumers.
The FSA will publish the results from the study, including brand names, and will disclose any formal action taken.
It is anticipated that a full analysis of the results will be published in April 2013.