Update on investigation into horse and pig DNA in beef products

Last updated:
16 January 2013
As the next step in the investigation into the results of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland survey of beef products, the Food Standards Agency has met this afternoon with representatives from the food industry (producers, processors and retailers) from all parts of the UK.

The meeting explored the reasons that could have led to a number of beef products on sale in the UK and the Republic of Ireland containing traces of horse and pig DNA. Industry representatives confirmed the existing processes that they follow to ensure that the products that reach consumers are of the highest standards. These include quality controls in place at all stages of the food chain. They also set out the actions that they have already taken in response to this incident.

It was noted that there are two distinct types of case:

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

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

The FSA has now set out a four-point plan for its 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 FSAI’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 Food Safety Authority of Ireland, 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 Food Safety Authority of Ireland, 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.

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