* Horse DNA in burgers sold by Tesco, Lidl, Aldi, Iceland
* Tesco sample showed 29 pct horse meat relative to beef
* Tesco withdraws product, says sorry
* UK PM Cameron calls for Food Standards Agency inquiry
* Tesco shares fall up to 1.7 pct
By James Davey
LONDON, Jan 16 Horse meat found in beef burgers
sold by Tesco was condemned by the Prime Minister on
Wednesday and was likely to prove both embarrassing and costly
for the firm.
"People in our country will have been very concerned to read
this morning that when they thought they were buying beef
burgers they were buying something that had horse meat in it,"
said Prime Minister David Cameron in Parliament.
"This is a completely unacceptable state of affairs," he
said, calling for an urgent investigation by Britain's Food
The scandal comes just a week after Chief Executive Philip
Clarke said Tesco was "back on form" in Britain after beating
analysts' forecasts for Christmas sales. Tesco had hailed a
successful relaunch of its meat ranges as a contributing factor
to its strongest sales growth in three years.
Shares in Britain's biggest retailer fell as much as 1.7
percent on Wednesday, knocking 480 million pounds ($772.33
million) off its market value, reacting to news late Tuesday
that the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) had found horse
DNA in beef burger products sold by Tesco in the UK and Ireland.
The FSAI said beef burgers sold at Dunnes Stores, Lidl, Aldi
and Iceland were also discovered to contain horse DNA.
It said most of the affected burgers contained very low
levels of horse DNA, but in one Tesco sample horse meat
accounted for about 29 percent relative to the beef content.
Analysts said the news, emblazoned across the front pages of
British and Irish newspapers on Wednesday and prompting an
outbreak of horse jokes at Tesco's expense on Twitter, e-mail
and texts, was a public relations blow for Tesco.
"The news is likely to, at least temporarily, reduce
consumers' trust in the quality of Tesco's products which is
unhelpful at a time when Tesco is trying to rebuild customers'
trust in the quality underpinning Tesco own label and Everyday
Value products," said Espirito Santo Investment Bank analyst
"It is going to be damaging (to sales), there's no doubt
about that," said another analyst who declined to be named.
Last Thursday Tesco said a 1 billion pound turnaround plan
for its home market was starting to work.
Clarke said the improvement reflected a series of
initiatives, including a complete relaunch of fresh meat ranges.
The beef burger products which tested positive for horse DNA
were produced by Liffey Meats and Silvercrest Foods in Ireland
and Dalepak Hambleton in Britain.
Tesco immediately withdrew from sale all products from its
supplier, Silvercrest, which is owned by ABP Food Group, saying
it was working with authorities and the supplier to urgently
understand how horse meat came to be in the product.
"The presence of illegal meat in our products is extremely
serious," Tim Smith, Tesco's group technical director said.
"We understand that many of our customers will be concerned
by this news, and we apologise sincerely for any distress."
Food safety experts say horse meat poses no added health
risks to consumers.
However, the FSAI said the issue raises concerns about the
traceability of meat ingredients.
"In Ireland it is not our culture to eat horsemeat and
therefore, we do not expect to find it in a burger," said FSAI
Chief Executive Alan Reilly.
Tim Lang, a professor of food policy at City University
London, said the issue "does raise deep concerns.".
"Firstly, is it fraud? No label declared the horsemeat or
traces of pig DNA. Secondly, it appears to be adulteration, a
cheaper meat being substituted for a more expensive one.
"Thirdly, and probably most importantly, this exposes
failings in commercial food governance. Big retailers are
supposedly in control of the food system, yet their management
and contracts and specifications have been found wanting."
ABP Foods said the source of the contamination was a beef
based product bought from two third party suppliers outside of
"What we understood we were buying is not what was actually
received," ABP CEO Paul Finnerty, told Irish broadcaster RTE.
($1 = 0.6215 British pounds)
(Reporting by James Davey, additional reporting by Kate Kelland
and Conor Humphries in Dublin; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)