Timeline on horse meat issue

Timeline of statements and news stories on the horse meat investigation published by the Food Standards Agency.

2014

14 April

New European horse meat tests

The FSA confirms details of a new round of tests of beef products for horse meat contamination and publishes sampling protocol

29 January

FSA publishes further beef product test results

The FSA publishes the third quarterly report of industry results from the testing of beef products for horse meat or horse DNA

2013

31 October

Horse DNA detected in canned beef from Romania

The FSA informed that a batch of canned sliced beef that was found to contain horse DNA has been withdrawn from sale.

8 October

FSA publishes further beef product test results

The FSA publishes the second quarterly report industry results from the testing of beef products for horse meat or horse DNA

19 July

Horse DNA detected in meat pie from Latvia

FSA informed that a frozen meat pie product made in Latvia that was found to contain horse DNA has been withdrawn from sale.

12 July

FSA action plan issued following Troop report

Initial action plan to implement the recommendations from the Professor Troop review has been prepared for the the Board's consideration at its meeting on Tuesday 16 July.

5 July

Horse meat: final report on FSA response

Professor Pat Troop completes her independent review of the Food Standards Agency’s response to the adulteration of processed beef products with horse and pork meat and DNA. The final report has been published.

13 June

More results of beef product testing published

The Agency confirms it has received a further 19,050 industry results from testing beef products for horse DNA. The Agency has also published the full report of the local authority testing programme. The new results show that three beef products contained horse DNA at or above the 1% threshold. None tested positive for the veterinary drug phenylbutazone (bute).

4 June

Horse meat review - key findings

Professor Pat Troop presents to the FSA's open board meeting the key findings of her review of the Agency’s handling of the adulteration of processed beef products with horse and pig meat and DNA. The final report will be published at the end of this month on the FSA website.

23 April

Final result from UK-wide beef survey confirmed

The FSA receives confirmation that the final result for the remaining sample taken as part of the Agency’s UK-wide sampling programme of beef products does not contain horse DNA at or above the 1% reporting threshold.

17 April

FSA review announced

FSA Board meeting agrees that a review will be carried out into the Agency's response to the adulteration of processed beef products with horse and pig meat and DNA.

16 April

Results of Europe-wide beef product survey published

The European Commission publishes the results of the Europe-wide survey of beef products. None of the UK's 150 samples are found to contain horse DNA at or above the 1% threshold for reporting

9 April

Very low levels of bute found in Asda corned beef product

Very low levels of phenylbutazone (bute) have been found in 340g tins of Asda Smart Price Corned Beef. Asda recalls the product.

Update on Agency’s beef product survey

The FSA confirms results of four of the remaining five samples relating to the Agency’s UK-wide sampling programme of beef products. All five of the products were withdrawn from sale following receipt of the first test results. Two of the four samples have been found to contain horse DNA at or above the 1% threshold for reporting. Neither product was found to contain the veterinary drug bute (phenylbutazone) or pig DNA.

26 March

Updated results of FSA UK-wide survey of beef products

Further test results from the first two phases of the FSA’s UK-wide sampling programme of beef products have now been confirmed. The results show 352 out of 362 samples were negative for the presence of both horse and pig DNA.

22 March

Hungarian horse meat found labelled as 'diced beef'

The Food Standards Agency is informed by Lancashire County Council that it has identified 100kg of horse meat imported from Hungary labelled as beef.

18 March

Cutting plant suspension lifted

The Agency grants conditional approval to the Aberystwyth meat plant that had its approval suspended during the horse meat investigations.

*In April the FSA informed Farmbox Meats Ltd of its decision to refuse approval. Farmbox Meats Ltd initially sought to appeal this decision, but have subsequently decided to withdraw it.

8 March

Update on progress of FSA beef product surveys

Sampling of the first and second phases of the FSA's UK-wide survey of beef products completed and the initial test results published. The results show that 212 of the 224 samples taken in phase one are negative for both horse and pig DNA at or above the 1% threshold.

Slaughterhouse suspension lifted

The FSA decides to lift the suspension of the approval of the Peter Boddy Licensed Slaughterhouse, Todmorden, West Yorkshire, which means it will once again be allowed to operate.

5 March

Update to Agency Board meeting

Chief Executive Catherine Brown updates FSA open Board meeting on the horse meat incident.

1 March

Third FSA update on testing of beef products for horse DNA

The Agency publishes the third set of test results from the food industry, which has been checking for the presence of horse DNA in products that are labelled as beef.

The FSA's Chief scientist posts a blog entry: It’s not as simple as in CSI

28 February

Update on EU sampling programme

The Agency publishes further details of the European Union sampling programme that was agreed by member states and announced by the FSA the previous week.

22 February

FSA update on testing of beef products for horse DNA

The Agency publishes the second set of industry results from beef products that have been tested for the presence of horse DNA.

21 February

Scotland: frozen beef burger contains horse DNA

North Lanarkshire Council reports a positive result for horse DNA in a frozen beef burger that they submitted for sampling. Investigations ongoing to determine source of burger.

Burger company withdraws products

The Burger Manufacturing Company withdraws products that contain at least 1% horse meat*, after testing carried out by Powys County Council.

* 22 March update: The Burger Manufacturing Company (BMC) withdrew the products after initial tests indicated that they contained horse DNA at a 1% Limit of Detection. However, subsequent tests confirmed the presence of horse DNA at levels below the 1% threshold for reporting.

19 February

FSA meat testing survey expanded

The Agency publishes details of the expanded UK-wide survey of food authenticity being carried out through local authorities.

15 February

FSA publishes industry test results on beef products

The Agency publishes the first set of industry results from beef products that have been tested for the presence of horse DNA.

Update on police investigations into horse meat

The Agency announces that further to the arrests made yesterday in Wales and West Yorkshire in relation to suspected fraud, there have been seizures of evidence in Hull and London.

14 February

Arrests made at meat plants

Dyfed-Powys Police make arrests at both meat plants inspected by the Food Standards Agency on Tuesday, 12 February.

Rangeland Foods withdraws burgers due to horse meat

Catering supplier Rangelands Foods in the Republic of Ireland tells the Food Safety Authority of Ireland that some of its burger products contain significant levels of horse meat.

Latest bute test results on horse carcasses

The Agency's most recent tests on the presence of phenylbutazone (bute) in horses slaughtered in the UK checked 206 horse carcasses between 30 January 2013 and 7 February 2013. Of these, eight tested positive for the drug. Six were sent to France and may have entered the food chain. The remaining two did not leave the slaughterhouse in the UK .

12 February

FSA raids meat plant involved in alleged supply of horse meat

The Agency issues a statement after the FSA and police enter two meat premises, one in West Yorkshire and the other in West Wales, involved in alleged supply of horse meat.

11 February

The FSA issues a statement on horse testing

The Agency announces that it has begun a system of 'positive release' for horses slaughtered in the UK. This means that horse carcasses will require a negative phenylbutazone (bute) test before they are allowed to enter the food chain.

Tesco finds horse meat in some Everyday Value Spaghetti Bolognese

Tesco tests the frozen Everyday Value Spaghetti Bolognese, which had been previously withdrawn, and finds that while most positive results are at a trace level of less than 1%, three have shown significant levels of horse DNA, exceeding 60%. The company also tested the horse meat for bute. The results are negative.

10 February

The FSA issues advice to public institutions

The Agency issues interim advice to public institutions, such as schools and hospitals, caterers on procurement and reminds them to check meat supplies.

9 February

The FSA issues a statement on meeting with Defra and food industry representatives

The FSA and Defra demand that more authenticity tests are carried out on all beef products, such as beefburgers, meatballs and lasagne, and for industry to provide the initial results to the FSA by 15 February. It is agreed that initial tests will focus on the areas of most concern, but that all products will be tested as part of the programme and all results reported.

The FSA and the food industry commits to work together to identify the best points in the supply chain to test as part of the ongoing programme and to publish regular reports of test results.

8 February

The FSA issues a further statement on horse meat investigation

The Agency announces that it has involved the police, both here and in Europe, after the evidence it has about the two cases, of the significant amount of horse meat in burgers and lasagne, points to either gross negligence or deliberate contamination of the food chain.

Aldi finds horse meat in beef lasagne and spaghetti Bolognese

Aldi withdraws two beef products after its tests find between 30% and 100% horse meat in samples.

The FSA issues advice to other retailers or producers that have sourced beef products from the French company Comigel to consider precautionary withdrawal.

7 February

Findus beef lasagne products test positive for horse meat

The FSA confirms that the meat content of beef lasagne products previously recalled by Findus has tested positive for more than 60% horse meat. Findus withdrew the beef lasagne products after its French supplier, Comigel, raised concerns about the type of meat used in the lasagne.

The Agency reiterates that there is no evidence to suggest that this is a food safety risk, but does order Findus to test the lasagne for the veterinary drug phenylbutazone, known as bute.

The FSA issues an update on the FSA and industry testing programme

The Agency announces that it is now requiring a more robust response from the food industry in order to demonstrate that the food it sells and serves is what it says it is on the label, and demands that food businesses conduct authenticity tests on all beef products, such as beef burgers, meatballs and lasagne and provide the results to the FSA. The tests will be for the presence of horse meat.

6 February

Meat testing protocol published

The Agency publishes the protocol for the UK-wide survey of food authenticity in processed meat products. The survey will use specialised analytical techniques to provide information about the possible presence of horse or pig DNA in a range of beef products. It is planned that 28 local authorities across the UK will take a total of 224 samples in accordance with the detailed protocol. Results will be published in April 2013.

4 February

FSA and industry agree to publish testing programme

The Agency announces that it has agreed with the food industry to publish the results of industry testing of meat products. The results will also be made publicly available.

Horse meat is found in NI cold store

The Agency announces that, as part of its ongoing investigation into mislabelled meat, it has tested a quantity of frozen meat currently detained in a cold store on the premises of a company called Freeza Meats in Northern Ireland. Freeza Meats is potentially linked to the Silvercrest factory in the Republic of Ireland.

Of the 12 samples from the suspect consignment that have been tested, two of the samples came back positive for horse meat, at around 80%. As this meat was detained, it has not entered the food chain.

1 February

The FSA issues a statement following Ministry of Justice announcement about non-Halal meat

The Agency announces that it has called an urgent meeting of major retailers and suppliers on Monday 4 February, following the Ministry of Justice announcement that a number of meat pies and pasties supplied to prisons in England and Wales were labelled and served as Halal, but contained traces of pork DNA.

25 January

The FSA issues a third update

The Agency announces that it has today received the results of tests conducted on samples taken from the Dalepak plant by North Yorkshire Trading Standards.

North Yorkshire Trading Standards took seven samples of burger lines, comprising all the meat being used currently in the production of these lines. Neither horse nor pork DNA was detected in any samples.

24 January

The FSA issues statement on bute in horse meat

The Agency reiterates that horses that have been treated with the drug phenylbutazone, known as bute, are not allowed to enter the food chain and carries out regular enhanced sampling and testing for phenylbutazone in meat from horses slaughtered in the UK.

Bute in horse meat update

The Agency issues an update explaining that in 2012, the FSA identified nine cases where horses tested positive for bute. Seven were exported for the food chain. The other two did not enter the food chain. None of the meat was destined for the UK.

Where the meat had been exported to other countries, the relevant food safety authorities were informed.

18 January

FSA issues a second update

The results of all burgers tested for bute are found to be negative.

The Department for Agriculture, Food and the Marine in Ireland announced that further samples of products from the Silvercrest processing plant had been tested. Seven samples of raw ingredients were tested, one of which, sourced from another European Union Member State, tested positive for the presence of horse DNA. The Silvercrest plant temporarily has suspended all production.

The FSA’s investigation into the Dalepak plant in Yorkshire is focusing particularly on Dalepak's suppliers and whether it has suppliers in common with Silvercrest.

The retailers named by the FSAI have confirmed that they have removed all relevant products from their shelves. Other major retailers have also decided to remove products from sale from the suppliers named in the investigation.

Chief scientist posts a blog entry: Making horse sense of contaminated burgers

16 January

FSA issues first statement in response to FSAI news

The Agency announces it is ‘investigating urgently’ how a number of beef products on sale in the UK and the Republic of Ireland came to contain some traces of horse and pig DNA. All of the retailers involved so far have removed potentially affected products from their shelves.

FSA issues update to statement

The Agency sets out the four-point plan for the investigation, which it will be implementing in conjunction with other Government departments, local authorities and the food industry:

1. To continue the urgent review of the traceability of the food products identified in the Food Safety Authority of Ireland’s survey. The retailers and the UK processor named in the survey have been asked to provide comprehensive information on the findings by the end of Friday 18 January.
2. To explore further, in conjunction with the FSAI, the methodology used for the survey to understand more clearly the factors that may have led to the low level cases of cross-contamination.
3. To consider, with relevant local authorities and the FSAI, whether any legal action is appropriate following the investigation.
4. To work with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the devolved rural affairs departments and local authorities on a UK-wide study of food authenticity in processed meat products.

The Agency noted that there two distinct types of case:

  • In all but one of the cases, extremely low levels of horse and pig DNA.
  • In the one exceptional case, the level of horse meat accounted for 29% of the meat content.

Therefore the causes of these two problems are likely to be different and the focus of the investigations into the causes will be different.

15 January

Food Safety Authority of Ireland identifies horse and pig DNA

The FSAI publishes the findings of a targeted study examining the authenticity, or labelling accuracy, of a number of burger products, which reveals that products some contained horse and pig DNA.

In particular, 27 beefburger products were analysed, with 10 of the 27 products (37%) testing positive for horse DNA and 23 (85%) testing positive for pig DNA. In nine of the ten beefburger samples, horse DNA was found at very low levels. In one sample from Tesco, the level of horse DNA indicated that horse meat was present and accounted for approximately 29% of the total meat content of the burger.