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Findus lasagnes have been 'contaminated with horse meat since last summer', leaked letter reveals as supermarkets clear YET MORE shelvesLasagne packs manufactured at plant in Metz by French company ComigelConcerns the horse meat contained drug bute – a known human health riskFirm 'was told last week that food had been contaminated since August'
Top politicians say they will no longer eat processed beef after scandalComigel could face prosecution for supplying mis-labelled meat
are likely to be non-conform and consequently the
labelling on finished products is incorrect. The supplier has asked us
to withdraw the raw material batches.'
Findus could not be reached for comment on Mr Watson's claim.
Downing Street described the incident as 'distasteful' but stressed there was no evidence of a health risk and urged consumers to follow the FSA advice.
A spokesman for Number 10 said: 'We have a regulatory regime in place and we have bodies that are there to enforce them and there is clearly a responsibility on retailers as well.
'The FSA are looking at this issue. There are routine tests carried out but it is really up to retailers to ensure that what they are selling to people who cook food for other people to consume is what it is on the label.'
Findus had asked retailers to remove three sizes of beef lasagne packets – 320g, 360g and 500g – from shelves on Monday, citing what it called a ‘labelling issue’.
But it has now emerged the products contained horse meat, which constitutes a crime under consumer labelling laws.
Factory: Findus' food processing facility in Longbenton, a suburb of Newcastle upon Tyne
Criticism: The firm is under fire for its handling of the horsemeat revelations which emerged this week
Findus was unable to say how long horse meat has been used in the products.
firm prominently advertises its beef lasagne on its website, claiming
its products are made with 'the best ingredients and a generous pinch of
imagination', with the message: 'You can trust us.'
It was revealed today that the supplier Comigel could face prosecution over its role in the scandal.
A source at the Ministry of
Agriculture in Paris confirmed that any business found presenting food
under the wrong label was liable for 'large fines'.
It is also possible that Erick Lehagre, the 53-year-old Frenchman who runs the firm, could also be prosecuted individually.
This would be the case even if he
claimed that the butchers supplying his business had been misleading
him, said the government source.
Comigel has stepped up security at its main plant in Luxembourg, which is surrounded by barbed wire fences and numerous guards.
It has also taken down its website, with a company representative saying today: 'If we have anything to say we will do so.'
Manufacture: A worker shows off a beef lasagne ready meal made at the Findus factory in Tyneside in 2008
MANUFACTURER STILL KEEPS QUIET
the company which produced the contaminated Findus lasagne at its
manufacturing plant in Metz, eastern France, has refused to explain
Comigel management had no statement to release and simply said the 53-year-old president of Comigel, Erick Leharge, was ‘unavailable for comment.’
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson
said that the firm, which was founded in Luxembourg in 1972 before
moving to France in 1976, now faced an investigation for ‘illegal
said : ‘The responsibility for the safety and authenticity of food lies
with those who produce it, and who sell or provide it to the final
consumer. I know that food producers, retailers and caterers are as
concerned as we are at the course of recent events.
Food Standards Agency, Defra, and the Department of Health are working
closely with businesses and trade bodies along the whole food chain to
root out any illegal activity and enforce food safety and authenticity
can be confident that we will take whatever action we consider
necessary if we discover evidence of criminality or negligence.’
Comigel sells a range of ‘flagship’ products including pizzas, fruit pies, and other meats like lamb, veal and pork.
now the horsemeat scandal has centered on Irish processors, meaning
Comigel is the first French food firm supplying Britain to be caught up
Britain, there is no taboo against eating horse meat in France, and it
remains very popular in a number of restaurants in Paris, and other
parts of the country, as well as in specialist butchers.
The UK exports thousands of horse carcasses to France every year, raising the prospect that British consumers could have been eating horsemeat which originated in this country.
It was revealed last month that in 2012 9,400 horses were slaughtered for meat in Britain – more than double the number killed just three years earlier.
There is also concern that the horse meat has not been tested for the presence of veterinary drug phenylbutazone.
Also known as ‘bute’, it was banned for humans after it was found to cause a serious side effect in about one person in 30,000.
The FSA said the level of horse meat found in the Findus products ranged from 60 to 100 per cent.
The agency said the scandal
was 'highly likely' to be the result of criminal activity, with
suppliers deliberately cutting corners by mis-labelling horse as pure
'This is an appalling situation,' chief executive Catherine Brown told the BBC.
have to say that that the two cases of gross contamination that we see
here indicates that it is highly likely there has been criminal and
fraudulent activity involved.'
A spokesman said: ‘We have no evidence to suggest that this is a food safety risk. However, the FSA has ordered Findus to test the lasagne for bute.
'People who have bought any Findus beef lasagne products are advised not to eat them and return them to the shop.’
Tesco has removed packs of frozen Everyday Value Spaghetti Bolognese, and Aldi has withdrawn its Today’s Special Frozen Beef Lasagne and Today’s Special Frozen Spaghetti Bolognese.
Tests are being carried out on these products, although there is no evidence so far that they contain horse meat.
Reacting to the development, Labour’s Shadow Food and Farming Secretary, Mary Creagh, attacked the Government’s handling of the crisis.
Miss Creagh said: ‘People do not feel they can trust what it says on the label. The Government’s handling of this has been appalling.
'Unless they come out on the front foot and show leadership, we won’t have a meat processing industry left.’
Speaking on Radio 4's Today programme this morning, she said that the scandal had cast doubt on all processed beef products, and called for Government guidance on whether or not it was safe to eat.
Asked if customers should eat beef which they have previously bought and are keeping in their fridge or freezer, Miss Creagh replied: 'I certainly wouldn't, but I'm waiting for the Government, the experts, the scientists, to tell us and issue proper clear advice for consumers.
'It's simply not good enough for ministers to sit at their desks and pretend this isn't happening.'
She added: 'My big concern is about what's lurking in corner shops, and what's lurking in the fridges and freezers of hospitals, prisons and school canteens as well.'
Conservative MP Anne McIntosh, chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee, echoed Miss Creagh's sentiments as she insisted that she would no longer eat processed beef until the scandal was over.
I think the message is to go out and buy your food as locally as you can so you know where the beef is coming from,' she said.
'There's a common strand going through this of imported meat coming from EU countries. None of the meat seems to have come from this country.
'It's sending shockwaves through the farming community and denting consumer confidence. We need to tackle this very quickly to restore consumer confidence, and I think the message is to buy local.'
Normal: A horse butcher in Paris, where eating the meat is not considered taboo
Findus said: ‘Findus UK can confirm testing of its beef lasagne has revealed some product containing horse meat.
'As a precautionary measure, on Monday we coordinated a full withdrawal of our affected beef lasagne.
‘We understand it is a very sensitive subject for consumers and we would like to reassure you we have reacted immediately.
'We do not believe this to be a food safety issue.’
Last night, Ms Brown said: ‘The FSA
is requiring a more robust response from the industry to demonstrate
that the food it sells is what it says it is on the label.
are demanding businesses conduct tests and provide results to the FSA.
The tests will be for the presence of significant levels of horse meat.’
MailOnline revealed earlier this week how a British-based meat importer has
been implicated in bringing in large quantities of beef from Poland
that contained horse meat.
Foods, which is based in Hull, describes itself and partner companies
as a supplier to schools, restaurants and market stalls in the UK.
The company supplied at least 60 tonnes of beef, some of which contained horse, to food processors and manufacturers in Ireland.
meat ended up at the factory of Silvercrest, County Monaghan, which is
known to have made contaminated burgers for Tesco, Burger King, Asda and
the Co-op among others.
VIDEO Daybreak presenters alarmed after FS worker hints at Bute contamination
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Clearance: Supermarket shelves have been cleared of meat products in the wake of the horse meat scandal
HOW BRITISH CONSUMERS FOUND OUT THEY HAD BEEN EATING HORSEMEAT
January 15, 2013: News breaks that horse meat has been found in beef burgers being sold in the UK and Irish supermarkets.
The Republic of Ireland's food safety authority (FSAI) reveals the contaminated products came from two processing plants in Ireland, Liffey Meats and Silvercrest Foods, as well as the Dalepak Hambleton plant in Yorkshire.
The burgers had been on sale in the UK at Tesco and Iceland stores. Both companies begin removing all implicated products from their shelves.
January 16: Three more supermarkets – Asda, the Co-op and Sainsbury's – start removing frozen beefburger products from their stores as a 'precautionary measure'.
Tesco discovers that 29 per cent of the 'beef' content of one of its Everyday Value beefburgers was actually horse meat.
Burger King, which also uses supplier ABP/Silvercrest, said it has received assurances from the manufacturer that none of its products have been affected by horse meat contamination.
Government and the Food Standards Agency announces a UK wide survey into the authenticity of burgers and other processed meat products.
January 17: It emerges that Government scientists in Ireland first found horse DNA in late November but did not reveal their findings until January 11 as they wanted to carry out further tests.
Burger King continues to assure customers its products were not affected.
January 18: More than ten million burgers have now been removed from sale, including more than 100,000 made at the Yorkshire factory of Dalepak.
The firm at the centre of the horse meat scandal – Irish company ABP – announces a temporary closure at its Silvercrest processing plant in Co Monaghan after new tests confirmed the contamination was rife.
Hotel chain Premier Inn removes beef burgers supplied by the company from its restaurants.
January 21: Silvercrest processing plant in Ireland confirms that a protein powder – used as a filler to help bulk out the burgers – which was imported from the Netherlands caused the contamination.
January 23: Burger King announces it is switching its burger supplier and warns customers that some products might be in short supply.
January 24: Burger King admits it removed thousands of burgers produced by ABP/Silvercrest from its restaurants.
January 25: Tesco apologises after one its stores in Cowley, Oxfordshire, continued to sell a line of burgers that should have been withdrawn in the wake of the horse meat scandal.
January 27: Revealed that the horse meat found in beef burgers manufactured for British supermarkets was imported from a supplier in Poland.
January 30: FSA reveals the mixture of beef and horse offcuts found in contaminated burgers sold in supermarkets could have been used for a year.
Emerges that the contaminated meat was in the form of blocks of frozen product from a Polish supplier which had been used for a year.
January 31: Emerges that Asda and Co-op have also been selling burgers contaminated with horse meat.
Four out of 17 burgers tested by the Co-op showed up positive for equine DNA, while one was as much as 17.7per cent horse meat.
Similarly, four frozen burgers made for Asda were positive for trace levels of horse DNA.
February 1: Burger King admits to selling burgers contaminated with horse meat.
February 4: FSA under pressure to begin testing a wider range of beef products
February 6: Asda removes four own-label brands of frozen burgers from sale following the discovery of beef contaminated with horse meat at a manufacturer in Northern Ireland.
The decision followed revelations that a consignment of beef containing high levels of horse meat had been found at a cold store operated by Freeza Meats of Newry.
Flexi Foods, based in Hull, is also named as the key source of consignments of tonnes of beef that illegally included horse meat.
Large blocks of what were supposed to be beef off-cuts were imported by Flexi Foods from Poland and then sold on to food manufacturers in the UK and Ireland.
February 7: Revealed that packs of Findus frozen lasagne meals being sold around the UK contained up to 100 per cent horse meat.
The lasagne packs were manufactured by French company, Comigel, at a plant in Metz, which produces food for supermarkets in Britain and Europe.
Comigel makes a range of beef products for Tesco and Aldi. Both stores begin removing those products as a 'precautionary measure'.