Horse Meat Timeline

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has hinted that further raids might be carried out as politicians call for the Food Standards Agency to order retailers to carry out safety and contamination tests.

And The Times has reported that eight out of 200 horses slaughtered during the last fortnight were contaminated with the veterinary drug phenylbutazone (bute) which is banned from food.

Today, the first tests for horse meat contamination in food are expected to be published and there are fears the discovery of “bute” at stome stage is inevitable.

Last year the FSA told meat processors to halt the production of “desinwed” beef and lamb which was used in tens of millions of ready meals, burgers and kebabs after orders from European Commission inspectors.

That led to warnings that unlawful meat would be imported into Britain.

This week’s raid at a Todmorden slaughterhouse was the result of serious concerns dating back to the middle of last month.

February 12

FSA raids at Todmorden and Wales over allegations surrounding the supply of horse meat

February 11

The FSA announces that it has begun a system of “positive release” for horses slaughtered in the UK.

This means that horse carcasses will require a negative phenylbutazone (bute) test before they are allowed to enter the food chain.

Tesco finds horse meat in some Everyday Value Spaghetti Bolognese

Tesco tests the frozen Everyday Value Spaghetti Bolognese, which had been previously withdrawn, and finds that while most positive results are at a trace level of less than 1 per cent, three have shown significant levels of horse DNA, exceeding 60 per cent. The company also tested the horse meat for bute. The results are negative.

February 10

The FSA issues interim advice to public institutions, such as schools and hospitals, caterers on procurement and reminds them to check meat supplies.

February 9

The FSA and Defra demand that more authenticity tests are carried out on all beef products, such as beefburgers, meatballs and lasagne, and for industry to provide the initial results to the FSA by February 15.

February 8

The FSA announces that it has involved the police, both here and in Europe, after the evidence it has of the significant amount of horse meat in burgers and lasagne, points to either gross negligence or deliberate contamination of the food chain.

Aldi finds horse meat in beef lasagne and spaghetti Bolognese

Aldi withdraws two beef products after its tests find between 30 per cent and 100 per cent horse meat in samples.

The FSA issues advice to other retailers or producers that have sourced beef products from the French company Comigel to consider precautionary withdrawal.

February 7

Findus beef lasagne products test positive for horse meat

The FSA confirms that the meat content of beef lasagne products previously recalled by Findus has tested positive for more than 60 per cent horse meat. Findus withdrew the beef lasagne products after its French supplier, Comigel, raised concerns about the type of meat used in the lasagne.

The FSA reiterates that there is no evidence to suggest that this is a food safety risk, but does order Findus to test the lasagne for the veterinary drug phenylbutazone.

The FSA announces that it is now requiring a more robust response from the food industry in order to demonstrate that the food it sells and serves is what it says it is on the label, and demands that food businesses conduct authenticity tests on all beef products, such as beef burgers, meatballs and lasagne and provide the results to the FSA. The tests will be for the presence of horse meat.

February 6

The FSA publishes the protocol for the UK-wide survey of food authenticity in processed meat products. The survey will use specialised analytical techniques to provide information about the possible presence of horse or pig DNA in a range of beef products. It is planned that 28 local authorities across the UK will take a total of 224 samples in accordance with the detailed protocol. Results will be published in April 2013.

February 4

The FSA announces that it has agreed with the food industry to publish the results of industry testing of meat products. The results will also be made publicly available.

The Agency announces that, as part of its ongoing investigation into mislabelled meat, it has tested a quantity of frozen meat currently detained in a cold store on the premises of a company called Freeza Meats in Northern Ireland.

Of the 12 samples from the suspect consignment tested, two of the samples came back positive for horse meat, at around 80 per cent.

February 1

The FSA announces that it has called an urgent meeting of major retailers and suppliers following the Ministry of Justice announcement that a number of meat pies and pasties supplied to prisons in England and Wales were labelled and served as Halal, but contained traces of pork DNA.

January 25

The Agency announces that it has received the results of tests conducted on samples taken from the Dalepak plant by North Yorkshire Trading Standards.

North Yorkshire Trading Standards took seven samples of burger lines, comprising all the meat being used currently in the production of these lines. Neither horse nor pork DNA was detected in any samples.

January 24

The FSA reiterates horses that have been treated with the drug phenylbutazone, known as bute, are not allowed to enter the food chain and carries out regular enhanced sampling and testing for phenylbutazone in meat from horses slaughtered in the UK.

The FSA issues an update explaining that in 2012, the FSA identified eight cases where horses tested positive for bute. Five were exported for the food chain. The other three did not enter the food chain. None of the meat was destined for the UK.

January 18

The FSA says all burgers tested for bute are found to be negative.

The Department for Agriculture, Food and the Marine in Ireland announced that further samples of products from the Silvercrest processing plant had been tested. Seven samples of raw ingredients were tested, one of which, sourced from another European Union Member State, tested positive for the presence of horse DNA. The Silvercrest plant temporarily has suspended all production.

The FSA’s investigation into the Dalepak plant in Yorkshire is focusing particularly on Dalepak’s suppliers and whether it has suppliers in common with Silvercrest.

Retailers confirm they have removed all relevant products from their shelves. Other major retailers have also decided to remove products from sale from the suppliers named in the investigation.

January 16

The FSA announces it is investigating urgently how a number of beef products on sale in the UK and the Republic of Ireland came to contain some traces of horse and pig DNA. All of the retailers involved so far have removed potentially affected products from their shelves.

The Agency sets out the four-point plan for the investigation, which it will be implementing in conjunction with other Government departments, local authorities and the food industry:

1. To continue the urgent review of the traceability of the food products identified in the Food Safety Authority of Ireland’s survey. The retailers and the UK processor named in the survey have been asked to provide comprehensive information on the findings by January 18.

2. To explore further, in conjunction with the FSAI, the methodology used for the survey to understand more clearly the factors that may have led to the low level cases of cross-contamination.

3. To consider, with relevant local authorities and the FSAI, whether any legal action is appropriate following the investigation.

4. To work with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the devolved rural affairs departments and local authorities on a UK-wide study of food authenticity in processed meat products.

The FSA noted that there two distinct types of case:

In all but one of the cases, extremely low levels of horse and pig DNA.

In the one exceptional case, the level of horse meat accounted for 29 per cent of the meat content.

Therefore the causes of these two problems are likely to be different and the focus of the investigations into the causes will be different.

January 15

Food Safety Authority of Ireland identifies horse and pig DNA

The FSAI publishes the findings of a targeted study examining the authenticity, or labelling accuracy, of a number of burger products, which reveals that products some contained horse and pig DNA.

In particular, 27 beefburger products were analysed, with 10 of the 27 products (37 per cent) testing positive for horse DNA and 23 (85 per cent) testing positive for pig DNA. In nine of the ten beefburger samples, horse DNA was found at very low levels. In one sample from Tesco, the level of horse DNA indicated that horse meat was present and accounted for approximately 29 per cent of the total meat content of the burger.