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Horse meat in burgers: FAQs

By
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks
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16th January 2013 - The Food Standards Agency has launched an urgent investigation into how some beef burgers and other beef products came to contain horse meat and pork. Which products are affected and what is being done about it? Read our FAQs.

How was the contamination discovered?

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) continually monitors food offered or sale on the Irish market to ensure producers are conforming to food law and that products are safe.

As part of this monitoring, a small check was carried out to investigate the authenticity of meat products for sale. The checks looked at how food was labelled and which animal species were contained in meat products.

What products were looked at?

The FSAI examined the presence of DNA from cattle, pigs and horses in salamis, beef burgers and beef meals - such as lasagne, cottage pie and beef curry pie.

All the products tested were from major retail outlets.

What did investigators find?

  • Of the 27 beef burger products analysed, all contained beef, 23 (85%) tested positive for pork and 10 (37%) contained horse meat
  • Of the 31 beef meal products, all contained beef, 21 (68%) contained pork and none tested positive for horse meat.
  • Of the 19 salami products analysed, 10 tested positive for beef, all contained pork and none had any traces of horse meat

The FSAI says that where pork was discovered in meat products and burgers that were not labelled as containing pork, it was at very low levels and its presence may have been unintentional and due to the processing of different animal species in the same plant.

How much horse meat was in the burgers?

In nine out of the 10 beef burger samples, horse DNA was at very low levels.

However, in one sample - Tesco Everyday Value Beef Burgers - the level of horse DNA indicated that horse meat was present and accounted for approximately 29% of the total meat content of the burger.

The Tesco burgers were on sale in the UK and Ireland.

Is it safe to eat horse meat?

Yes. Horse meat is consumed in several European Union member states.

Who produced and stocked the affected products?

According to the FSAI, the beef burger products that tested positive for horse meat are produced by two plants in Ireland (Liffey Meats and Silvercrest Foods) and one plant in the UK (Dalepak Hambleton).

The products were on sale in Tesco, Dunnes Stores, Lidl, Aldi and Iceland.

Are these products still on sale?

According to the Food Standards Agency (FSA), all of the retailers involved so far have removed potentially affected products from their shelves.

 

What happens next?

The FSA says it has contacted the retailers and producers named in the FSAI survey and has called a meeting later today with a wider range of food industry representatives to discover the extent of the potential problem and to investigate how this contamination might have occurred.

The FSAI says it has held meetings with the Irish meat plants involved as well as retailers and that further investigations are ongoing into how the contamination took place.

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