LONDON Feb 8 Britain said on Friday crime lay
behind some cases of horsemeat finding its way into "beef"
products on supermarket shelves, amid a growing scandal in a
country where many regard the idea of eating horse with horror.
Investigations into suppliers have been launched in recent
weeks after the revelation that beef products sold to companies
including Britain's biggest grocer Tesco and fast-food
chain Burger King contained horsemeat.
On Thursday the scandal appeared to widen further with the
news that horsemeat had been found in Findus's beef
lasagne, prompting the government to call it "very distasteful",
and forcing the firm to apologise to customers.
"At the moment we're looking at two incidents that have come
to light, which at the heart are acts of criminality," British
Prime Minister David Cameron's spokeswoman said on Friday.
"If you are a company buying a particular meat and you are
led to believe it is what you asked for, but then you find it's
not, then clearly there's been some law broken there," the
In a statement Findus said it knew there was a possible
problem with its ready meals two days before the products were
withdrawn from the shelves of British supermarkets.
"We understand those concerns, we are sorry that we have let
people down and we want to outline the facts," it said.
"Findus UK had extensive DNA testing completed by leading
independent experts. On Wednesday 6th February these tests
confirmed that horsemeat was present in a number of samples and
this information was shared with the Food Standards Agency."
Supermarket chains Aldi, Lidl,
Iceland and the Co-operative Group have also been
sold beef products found to contain horse DNA.
Britain's Food Standards Agency (FSA) put the horsemeat
content at Findus at more than 60 percent while one Tesco burger
contained about 29 percent horsemeat, making those the two most
serious incidents to date.
Tesco has since dropped the Irish supplier of frozen beef
burgers, Silvercrest, a unit of ABP Food Group. Findus began a
recall of its beef lasagne from retailers earlier in the week on
advice from its French supplier, Comigel.
In response to the problem, the FSA has demanded that food
retailers and suppliers test all beef products and present their
findings to the agency by Feb. 15.
The issue dominated government on Friday, with Prime
Minister David Cameron's office promising to review food
standards and enforcement.
Cameron's spokeswoman said there was no evidence to suggest
any health risk from the products. Experts say horsemeat could
contain traces of veterinary drug phenylbutazone, or "bute",
which can be harmful to humans in high concentrations.
"It is completely unacceptable that a product which says
it's beef lasagne turns out to be mainly horsemeat," environment
minister Owen Paterson said in a statement, adding that "urgent"
checks were being made on meat supplies to schools and
Two senior lawmakers earlier on Friday advised against
eating processed beef products. Asked whether Cameron would
continue to eat such products, his spokeswoman said the premier
would follow the advice of the FSA.
The FSA advised against eating Findus beef lasagne products,
but - pending further testing for bute - said it had no evidence
to suggest the product was a food safety risk.