Food safety bosses are investigating after the discovery a number beef burger products containing both horse and pigmeat DNA were on sale in retail outlets across the UK and Ireland.
The retailers, Tesco, Dunnes Stores, Lidl, Aldi and Iceland, are now removing the products from sale according to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), which said "very low levels" of horse DNA was found in as many as nine out of 10 beef burgers, with one of them, Tesco’s Everyday Value burgers found to contain 29% horsemeat.
The FSAI said a total of 27 beef burger products were analysed with 10 of the 27 products (37%) testing positive for horse DNA and 23 (85%) testing positive for pig DNA. It said the burgers testing positive were produced in two processing plants in Ireland, Liffey Meats and Silvercrest Foods, and one in the UK, Dalepak Hambleton.
Prof. Alan Reilly, chief executive of the FSAI, said: "The products we have identified as containing horse DNA and/or pig DNA do not pose any food safety risk and consumers should not be worried.
"Whilst, there is a plausible explanation for the presence of pig DNA in these products due to the fact that meat from different animals is processed in the same meat plants, there is no clear explanation at this time for the presence of horse DNA in products emanating from meat plants that do not use horse meat in their production process. In Ireland, it is not in our culture to eat horse meat and therefore, we do not expect to find it in a burger."
Tim Smith, group technical director for Tesco, said: "The safety and quality of our food is of the highest importance to Tesco. We will not tolerate any compromise in the quality of the food we sell. The presence of illegal meat in our products is extremely serious. Our customers have the right to expect that food they buy is produced to the highest standards.
"The relevant authorities have said that these findings pose no risk to public health. We understand that many of our customers will be concerned by this news, and we apologise sincerely for any distress."