Britain expands "bigger than burgers" horsemeat tests

LONDON Tue Feb 19, 2013 1:33pm EST

Michael Beer, head of the food safety department at the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) speaks during a news conference after tests of about 100 convenience product for the presence of horse meat as a precaution in Bern February 15, 2013. REUTERS/Pascal Lauener

Michael Beer, head of the food safety department at the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) speaks during a news conference after tests of about 100 convenience product for the presence of horse meat as a precaution in Bern February 15, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Pascal Lauener

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LONDON (Reuters) - Britain is expanding meat testing to a wider range of products, including ready-made meals, as the scandal spreads over the sale of mislabeled horsemeat, the country's food regulatory agency said on Tuesday.

The Food Standards Agency said that as well as its original plans to check 224 samples of raw beef products for horse and pork DNA, it was now overseeing the testing of 140 meals such as lasagne, cottage pie and ravioli.

"This will give us a full a picture as we can possibly have," an FSA spokesman said. "We became aware that the issue was bigger than just burgers and it became sensible to look into other products too."

Nestle removed Buitoni brand beef pasta meals from sales in Italy and Spain on Tuesday, the latest European food company to find traces of horse DNA in its products.

The FSA said it would also survey a further 150 samples of products marketed as containing beef - including kebabs, gelatine, and stock cubes - as part of an EU-wide testing program.

The tests will be carried out by local authorities and include loose food, such as cafe sandwiches, it said.

The regulator said last week that it had found 29 samples of horsemeat in the food chain, in a separate swathe of tests it carried out of samples demanded from retailers.

The scandal, which has triggered product recalls and damaged confidence in Europe's vast and complex food industry, erupted last month when tests carried out in Ireland revealed that some beef products also contained horsemeat.

(Reporting by Rosalba O'Brien; Editing by Michael Roddy)

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