Long faces at Findus after horse meat lasagne revelations

Time to rein in all the horse gags. It is apparent that the contamination of Britain’s processed meat products by equine meat is much more widespread than was initially believed. The latest household name to be involved is Findus.

Tests on Findus frozen beef lasagne revealed that in some samples the meat content was as high as 99% horse. Of 18 sample meals tested, 11 were at least 60% horse and one was virtually all horse. Findus was unable to shed any light on how long the products had been on sale or how many had been sold

Experts interviewed in the media are offering conflicting accounts of the dangers to public health. Although it is accepted that properly-butchered horse meat represents no danger to public health, the alarm bells are ringing about rogue meat products that cannot be traced accurately to their source.

Findus has been pressurised into further tests to ascertain whether potentially harmful vets’ drugs, specifically phenylbutazone, may also be present in the horse meat. The Foods Standards Agency have been criticised for their sluggish response to the initial revelations.

Shadow environment minister Mary Creagh urged an immediate enquiry to ascertain whether the contamination was down to negligence, ineffective hygiene precautions or criminal activity. "British ministers are asleep on the job," she said. "This is no longer just a food safety issue but possibly an international criminal trade."

The contaminated products have been traced to Comigel, a French meat supplier from Metz. As a precaution, Tesco has withdrawn its Everyday Value Spaghetti Bolognese which is produced by the same company.

A series of investigations are likely to be underway very soon, but the worry is that this might turn out to be a case of locking the stable door after the . . . sorry, last one, promise.

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