Two of the cases of horse-meat contamination of frozen meat products amounted to either gross negligence or deliberate contamination of the food chain, Britain’s Food Standards Agency says.
The agency, in its strongest statement yet on the growing scandal around horse-meat contamination of products labelled as beef, said: “This is a very serious issue.”
It singled out lasagne from Findus, samples of which were found to contain between 60 per cent and 100 per cent horse meat, and frozen burgers from Tesco, with horse DNA measured at 29 per cent, relative to the beef content.
“The evidence we have about the two cases, of the significant amount of horse meat in burgers and lasagne, points to either gross negligence or deliberate contamination in the food chain,” the agency said.
“This is why we have already involved the police, both here and in Europe.
“We believe that these two particular cases – the frozen burgers from Tesco and the lasagne from Findus – are linked to suppliers in Ireland and France respectively.
“We are working closely with the authorities in these countries to get to the root of the problem.
“Our priority remains to protect UK consumers. People have been asking whether it is safe to eat any frozen meat products at the moment. There is no reason to suspect that there is any health issue with frozen food in general, and we wouldn’t advise people to stop eating it.
“In the particular cases of the Findus lasagne and the Tesco burgers, they have been withdrawn from sale. Anyone who has them in their freezer should return them to retailers as a precaution.
“In addition to the widespread testing we are doing, we’ve instructed the industry to urgently carry out its own tests on processed beef products to see whether horsemeat is present.”