By Catherine Hornby and Caroline Copley
ROME/ZURICH Feb 23 Italy's Health Ministry said
on Saturday that tests had found no trace of horse DNA in minced
beef meals by Swiss food giant Nestle that were
removed from sale on Monday.
Nestle removed the ready-made beef ravioli and tortellini
sold under its Buitoni brand from shelves in Italy and Spain and
halted production of the meals after its own tests had found
more than 1 percent horse DNA in the products.
Italian authorities seized 26 tonnes of affected beef
products on Thursday after Nestle withdrew the meals - the
latest company to become embroiled in the scandal that has
highlighted the complexities of Europe's food chain.
"No trace of horse DNA has been found in Nestle cooked and
frozen minced beef," the ministry said in a statement.
It was not immediately clear what the outcome was of the
tests of the food seized in Spain.
The Italian tests were carried out on beef products that had
been stored at the Safim plant near Turin, the ministry said.
Meanwhile, Italy also ordered the seizure on Saturday of
about 6 tonnes of frozen beef lasagne made by Italian group
PRIMIA after tests showed the presence of horse meat, an
official with Italy's NAS, a police unit that monitors health
and safety standards, told Reuters.
A Nestle spokesman welcomed the ministry's decision to
release its products.
"We are happy the ministry's tests came back negative,"
spokesman Chris Hogg said in an email to Reuters.
"Our focus now though is on restarting production of these
products today and tomorrow with a new supplier, using beef we
have tested to ensure it contains no horse DNA."
The Swiss company had suspended production of the affected
goods at its Moretta factory, in Piedmont, on Monday, the
Nestle had also suspended deliveries of all products using
beef from German subcontractor H.J. Schypke.
The pan-European scandal has prompted widespread product
withdrawals, consumer concern and government investigations into
the continent's food processing systems.
Although horse meat poses little or no health risk, the
discoveries have damaged the confidence of consumers in
supermarkets and fast-food chains since it was first identified
in Irish beefburgers.