Dutch authorities say some 50,000 tonnes of meat sold as beef across Europe since January 2011 may have contained horsemeat.
Read more: Dutch uncover large-scale meat fraud
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World’s biggest food company withdraws products in Italy, Spain and France, saying they contained more than 1% horse
Nestlé, the world’s biggest food company, has removed beef pasta products from sale in Italy, Spain and France after finding traces of horse DNA.
Swiss-based Nestlé, which last week said its products had not been affected by the scandal, said its tests had found more than 1% horse DNA in two products.
“We have informed the authorities accordingly,” Nestlé said in a statement on Monday. “There is no food safety issue.”
Nestlé withdrew two chilled pasta products, Buitoni Beef Ravioli and Beef Tortellini, in Italy and Spain. Lasagnes à la Bolognaise Gourmandes, a frozen product for catering businesses produced in France, will also be withdrawn.
Nestlé was suspending deliveries of all products made using beef from a German subcontractor to one of its suppliers, the company said.
The discovery of horsemeat in products labelled as beef has spread from the UK across Europe since last month, prompting product withdrawals, consumer anger and government investigations into the continent’s complex food-processing chains.
Governments across Europe have stressed that horsemeat poses little or no health risk, although some carcases have been found tainted with a painkiller banned for human consumption.
But the scandal has damaged the confidence of consumers in supermarkets and fast fold chains since horsemeat was first identified in Irish beef burgers.
Retailer Lidl said on Monday it had withdrawn products from its stores in Finland and Sweden after finding traces of horsemeat.
The news that horsemeat was used as a substitute for beef in some products sold in the UK has made many shoppers reconsider where they buy their meat products from.
Continued here: VIDEO: Meat scandal fuels consumer concerns
EU member states plan to start testing immediately for horse DNA in processed beef foods and to detect an illegal medicinal drug in horsemeat.
See the article here: VIDEO: EU launches wider horsemeat tests
French meat processing company Spanghero has its licence suspended after the government says it relabelled horsemeat as beef.
Some Tesco Everyday Value Spaghetti Bolognese contains 60% horsemeat, the retailer says, as the government details plans for processed beef testing.
Here is the original post: Tesco value bolognese 60% horsemeat
Food retailers have been told to carry out tests on all processed beef products after some Findus lasagnes were found to contain 100% horsemeat.
Here is the original post: VIDEO: Tests ordered on UK beef products
Food retailers are ordered to carry out tests on all processed beef products after meat in some Findus lasagnes was found to be up to 100% horsemeat.
See the original post here: Tests ordered on UK beef products
The poor are buying cheap burgers of questionable origin thanks to a flawed system
How you respond to the horsemeat burger story will depend upon who you are. If you’re wealthy enough not to have to buy the stuff, it will be with a sigh of contempt and an exasperated roll of the eyes. If you’re an executive from one of the implicated supermarkets, it will be with sweaty panic. And if you’re one of those forced, through economic circumstance, to shop in the value ranges, it will probably be with a deadened sense of despair. Food is emotional and stories about it make people react emotionally. But emotion does not help explain why something like this could happen.
For that, you have to look to the hard, unemotional logic of economics. It is about the global commodity that food has become and it is about the way the British supermarkets have consolidated power in the market place to deal with that commoditisation. None of these things made last week’s headline-grabber inevitable. But they did make it seriously likely and there will be other scandals like it in years to come unless the major retailers change their ways.
This tale falls into two distinct parts: the presence of pork and/or horse DNA in trace amounts, found in 23 of the 27 Irish and British manufactured beefburger products that were tested, and the one Tesco product found to contain a significant amount – 29% – of horse meat. Both have the same underlying cause. While supermarket bosses insist they have stringent systems in place to guarantee product quality, what they will not discuss is the impact of the brutal deals they enforce upon the companies that manufacture those products for them.
The manufacturers do not want to talk publicly about it either, for fear of enraging their key customers. Privately, however, they regularly report being forced to sell to the supermarkets at break-even or below the cost of production or risk being de-listed. They’ll do anything to avoid being de-listed because once off the shelves it’s a massive struggle to get back on. As a result, they’ll take the deals, and the financial hit, in the hope that the price will pick up in the future. And it’s when money gets tight that corners are cut.
Investigations are continuing, but many sources in the industry now believe the trace DNA elements entered the products through the use of protein powders, employed both to bulk up the protein content and to help burgers retain moisture (which means you can sell water). The idea of protein powders is not intrinsically bad: if we are going to bang animals on the head, we have a moral responsibility to use every last scrap, however distasteful the more gastronomically minded may find it. The problem is that their production requires the denaturing of animal products to such a degree that only chemical analysis can detect where they originated. And as the same plants grind myriad different animals, cross-contamination is always possible, especially when profit margins have been cut to the metaphorical bone.
Certainly the refusal by Dr Duncan Campbell, head of the UK’s leading food control laboratory, to accept the Food Standards Agency’s reassurances that there is no threat to human health, makes sense. ‘Until we know what the source is of the ‘horse’ or ‘something derived from horse’ that has been found in the beef products,’ he said, ‘we cannot be sure there is no food safety risk.’
The potential appearance of actual horse meat in burgers is a separate issue and that’s down to the cost of beef, which has reached historic highs. According to Index Mundi, which tracks commodity prices into the US, the current deadweight price for beef – the whole carcass – has just hit the equivalent of £2.75 a kilo, close to a price doubling in just four years.
It’s a similar story in this country. According to Eblex, the trade organisation for the beef industry, the key measure for top quality beef prices has gone from just over £2 a kilo in 2006 to £3.77 a kilo last week. As ever, that’s a function of supply and demand. Most beef animals are fed on grain. In 2008, massive price spikes in the cost of corn and soya presented beef farmers with major cash flow problems. Feeding their animals had just become too expensive. As a result, vast numbers sent not only their prime beef animals, but also their breeding herds, to slaughter.
Five years on and there is a shortage of new beef animals, combined with an uplift in demand for meat from emerging economies. Compared with beef, horse meat, the majority of which comes from South America and the near continent, is a bargain. According to a report last year by FranceAgriMer, the French state agriculture body, it trades globally at about £1.85 a kilo. Many in the meat processing industry believe non-domestic suppliers may have been sending over batches of horse meat marked as beef. On Friday, the ABP Food Group, one of the companies armpit deep in the scandal, confirmed that its investigations are “centred around two third-party continental suppliers”. The price difference in a tight market would have made such a switch irresistible.
At which point, the foodie middle classes bellow that this simply emphasises the importance of provenance; of knowing where your food has come from. It was part of an unpleasant discourse, played out across social media and radio chat shows last week, which insisted that anybody who bought these adulterated burger products got all they deserved. It’s distasteful in so many ways. An interest in provenance is a luxury that not everyone can afford. Nobody shops in the supermarket value ranges out of choice, and to suggest otherwise is to misunderstand the dynamic of poverty. Likewise, criticising people for not making the effort to craft all their food from scratch is to fail to recognise that some people aren’t just cash poor. They are time poor, too.
Yes, there is an ideal food model, one that does indeed involve knowing where all your ingredients come from, and making all your food yourself, but some people simple can’t afford that ideal. They are left at the mercies of a supermarket business that pursues the bottom line with such violence, and such terrible carelessness, that the wrong animals end up in the wrong cheap burgers.
This article will be opened for comments on Sunday morning