Authorities in Britain have raided two meat premises as part of its ongoing investigation into the mislabelling of meat products.
The Food Standards Agency and police entered two meat premises on Tuesday, one in West Yorkshire and the other in West Wales.
One was identified as Peter Boddy Licensed Slaughterhouse, in Todmorden, West Yorkshire.
The agency said it believed it supplied horse carcasses to Farmbox Meats Ltd, in Llandre, Aberystwyth, Wales.
The agency and police were looking into the circumstances through which meat products, purporting to be beef for kebabs and burgers, were sold when they were in fact horse.
The agency said it had suspended operations at both plants.
Both West Yorkshire and Dyfed-Powys police entered the premises with the agency, which has detained all meat found and seized paperwork, including customer lists, from the two companies.
“I ordered an audit of all horse producing abattoirs in the UK after this issue first arose last month and I was shocked to uncover what appears to be a blatant misleading of consumers,” agency director Andrew Rhodes said.
“I have suspended both plants immediately while our investigations continue.”
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said: “This is absolutely shocking.
“It’s totally unacceptable if any business in the UK is defrauding the public by passing off horse meat as beef. I expect the full force of the law to be brought down on anyone involved in this kind of activity.”
Welsh Government Minister for Agriculture Alun Davies said: “Integrity and trust are essential in the food chain.
“I would be appalled if these allegations are proven. The Welsh Government is working closely with [agriculture body] Defra and the Food Standards Agency to ensure this matter is dealt with swiftly and decisively.”
The raids are part of ongoing inquiries across several countries in Europe, as the scandal around horse meat being used in processed beef products widens.
The problem has developed into a European-wide probe of food fraud involving a range of meat products, and traders/food business operators.
Tens of millions of products have been pulled from supermarket shelves in Ireland, Britain, France and Sweden as testing adds to a growing list of contaminated products.
Ireland’s agriculture minister, Simon Coveney, said he had arranged a meeting in Brussels next Wednesday with EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy Tonio Borg, to consider the wider European implications of the scandal.
Coveney said he intended to discuss with the commission and other relevant ministers whatever steps may be necessary at EU level to comprehensively address this matter.
The minister has also arranged to have the issue on the agenda for the next Council of Agriculture Ministers later this month.
Coveney also confirmed that he would be requesting Irish manufacturers of processed meat products to carry out DNA testing and to work with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) in developing testing protocols for this purpose.
The minister said he considered it a necessary step to reassure Irish consumers and consumers of Irish food abroad.
Coveney said he had been in regular contact with his British counterpart, Owen Paterson.
Both agreed that the food watchdogs of the two countries would work closely together and jointly agree an approach for protecting the authenticity of meat ingredients used in the manufacture of meat-based products.
The minister revealed he had held a lengthy and constructive meeting with his Polish counterpart in Brussels and, as a result, a Polish veterinary delegation would visit Ireland this week to be briefed on its investigation.
Meanwhile, Romanian officials are reported to be irate that the country was named as the source of contamination in processed beef products produced by French company Comigel at its Luxemburg plant.
French authorities revealed a line of transactions which ultimately led to Romania as the source of the meat.
The Telegraph in Britain reports that Romanian officials are adamant that the horse meat was correctly labelled as such when it left the country.
Romanian prime minister Victor Ponta told a press conference that his country had been wrongly vilified as the “usual suspects”.
“We have finished our investigation and as far as we know we have not broken the law,” the Telegraph reported him as saying.
He said he was angry that the French had blamed Romania.
“It is unfair that they pointed the finger at our companies. We do not want to be the suspect for everything. There was no breaking of the law in Romania. Now it is up to the EU to find out who is responsible. Those who have switched the labels must be punished.”