London: The UK and Ireland have been sucked into a scandal over food labelling after horse meat and pork were found in beef burgers sold by several supermarket chains, including Tesco, Lidl and Aldi.
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) disclosed that it had found horse DNA in 10 out of 27 products claiming to be beef burgers. The level of contamination was even higher for pork, affecting 23 of the burgers tested.
“Beef meal products” such as pies and lasagne tested positive for pig DNA in 21 out of 31 cases, the regulator added.
The FSAI on Tuesday said the beef burgers that contained horse DNA were produced by two processing plants in Ireland, Liffey Meats and Silvercrest Foods, as well as one plant in the UK, Dalepak Hambleton.
The affected burgers were on sale at Tesco, Dunnes Stores, Lidl, Aldi and Iceland, it added. In one sample of Tesco “Everyday Value” beef burgers, it appeared that horse meat accounted for 29 per cent of the meat.
Professor Alan Reilly, FSAI chief executive, said the products did not pose any health safety risk, adding that there was a “plausible explanation” for the presence of pig DNA in samples given that production sites handled different meats.
However, he said there was no clear explanation for the discovery of horse DNA: “In Ireland, it is not in our culture to eat horsemeat and therefore, we do not expect to find it in a burger. Likewise, for some religious groups or people who abstain from eating pig meat, the presence of traces of pig DNA is unacceptable.”
Simon Coveney, Ireland’s minister for agriculture, said it was “totally unacceptable” that horse meat was present in beef burgers. He said an investigation into the issue would focus on imported ingredients.
Tesco said two of its frozen beef burgers products sold in both the UK and Ireland were among those that were found to contain horse DNA by the Irish regulator.
It has now removed 26 products from sale in the UK and Ireland, mostly “own brand” items that had been supplied by Silvercrest.
Tim Smith, Tesco technical director, apologised to shoppers but added that it did not yet know how many of the affected burgers had been sold, or how the contamination occurred.