Contaminated burgers made in Poland for UK supermarkets contained horse and beef ‘offcuts’ for up to a year


Tesco Everyday Value beefburgers were removed after it was discovered they contained horse meat

  • Tesco Everyday Value beefburgers were removed after it was discovered they contained horse meat
  • Contaminated meat was in blocks of frozen product from a Polish supplier, FSA said
  • Tesco vows to introduce a DNA testing system on meat products to ‘ensure the quality’ of the food
  • Supermarket drops frozen burger supplier following a ‘breach of trust’
  • MPs welcome DNA testing and praised Tesco’s ‘innovation’


A mixture of beef and horse offcuts found in contaminated burgers sold in supermarkets could have been used for a year, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has said today.

The contaminated meat was in the form of blocks of frozen product from a Polish supplier which had been used for a year, FSA chief executive Catherine Brown told the Commons Environment Committee.

Investigations are going on into how long contaminated meat might have been in use, Ms Brown told MPs.

Burgers were pulled off the shelves at Tesco

Burgers were pulled off the shelves at Tesco after the supermarket discovered that there were traces of horse meat in their products

Asked how UK consumers could know if horse meat had not been in burgers ‘for months, if not years’, Ms Brown replied: ‘We haven’t (in the past) identified horsemeat in burgers as a likely significant risk in this country, and therefore it is possible… and that’s why I’m saying that it’s very important now that we get to the bottom of the Polish connection and the Irish investigation because it is possible that these burgers have been on sale in this country.

‘The probable limit of possibility… is a year because it’s been a year that this supplier has been supplying.

‘And therefore when the Polish get to the bottom of this we will hope to know whether it’s likely that this has been going on for a year.’

Meat in Tesco burgers which was found to contain horse DNA did not come from a list of approved suppliers, the supermarket also admitted today.

The meat also came from outside the UK or Ireland, which was contrary to the supermarket’s policy.

The supermarket has now dropped its frozen burger supplier, Silvercrest, following what it termed a ‘breach of trust’.

It has vowed to introduce a DNA testing system on meat products to ‘ensure the quality’ of the food on its shelves in the wake of the scandal that has disgusted customers.

It said: ‘We now understand – with as much certainty as possible – what happened.

‘The evidence tells us that our frozen burger supplier, Silvercrest, used meat in our products that did not come from the list of approved suppliers we gave them.

‘Nor was the meat from the UK or Ireland, despite our instruction that only beef from the UK and Ireland should be used in our frozen beefburgers.

‘Consequently we have decided not to take products from that supplier in future. We took that decision with regret but the breach of trust is simply too great.’

Tesco was forced to issue a public apology earlier this month after tests in Ireland discovered traces of horse meat in three frozen beefburger lines.

The findings sparked a national outcry and 10 million burgers were pulled from shelves as a result of the scandal.

The supermarket launched an investigation into how the meat ended up in stores in the UK and Ireland on January 16.


Dropped: Tesco says it has dropped supplier Silvercrest Foods after the ‘breach of trust’

Today it promised to set a ‘new standard’ with the introduction of a testing system designed to detect ‘any deviation from our high standards’.

It issued a statement saying: ‘We made a commitment to customers to investigate thoroughly and share the findings with them. Since then, we have been working hard to understand what happened and how we can stop it ever happening again.’

It added: ‘Ultimately Tesco is responsible for the food we sell, so it is not enough just to stop using the supplier.

‘We have a well-equipped, expert technical team and world-class checks in place but we will not take anything for granted after this incident.

‘It has shown that, in spite of our stringent tests, checks and controls there remained a small possibility that something could go wrong and it did. We want to stop it ever happening again, so we are taking action to reduce that possibility still further.

‘To underpin the strong measures already in place, we will now introduce a comprehensive system of DNA testing across our meat products. This will identify any deviation from our high standards.

‘These checks will set a new standard.

‘It will be a significant investment for Tesco, borne by Tesco. We want to leave customers in no doubt that we will do whatever it takes to ensure the quality of their food and that the food they buy is exactly what the label says it is.’

The controversy surrounding Tesco extended to Dunnes Stores, Lidl, Aldi and Iceland after some of their products were also found to contain low levels of horse DNA.

The furore deepened further last week when it emerged a potentially carcinogenic drug may have entered the food chain following the slaughter of horses in the UK.

Shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh told the Commons that some of these animals tested positive for the carcinogen phenylbutazone, commonly known as bute.

She said: ‘I am in receipt of evidence showing that several horses slaughtered in UK abattoirs last year tested positive for phenylbutazone, or bute, a drug which causes cancer in humans and is banned from the human food chain.

‘It is possible that those animals entered the human food chain.’

The Commons Environment Committee is due to take evidence on the contamination of beef products with horse meat later today.

Food which tested positive was found to have been produced by Liffey Meats and Silvercrest Foods in Ireland and the UK plant, Dalepak Hambleton.

A statement released earlier this week by ABP Food Group, which owns Silvercrest, issued an apology and said they had appointed a new management team at the supplier and they will also introduce new DNA tests.

Paul Finnerty, Group Chief Executive, ABP Food Group said: ‘This has been a very difficult experience for all involved and has led to a significant interruption in business for Silvercrest and its customers. We are relieved that the source of the problem has been identified.’

‘While the company has never knowingly purchased or traded in equine product, I wish to take this opportunity to apologise for the impact this issue has caused.’

‘As previously stated the company has never knowingly bought or processed horse meat and all of our purchases are from approved and licensed EU plants.’

Tesco has won praise from the Government and MPs after announcing it would step up its food tracing procedures in the wake of the discovery of horse meat in beef burgers.

Environment minister David Heath said he ‘welcomed’ the supermarket’s announcement, which also won praise from shadow minister Huw Irranca-Davies.

Mr Irranca-Davies also welcomed the move towards DNA testing, which Labour has called on the Government to instigate.

He told MPs: ‘It is a welcome innovation, it is what we should be seeing more of, it’s what the NFU and others are calling for more of and it shows the extent to which we now need to be far more rigorous than we used to.

‘It’s not the same world it was 20 years ago.’

Mr Irranca-Davies said increased globalisation in meat supply had reinforced the need for more stringent checks on meat products.

And he pressed the minister to also update MPs on how horse meat was checked for medical contamination, after evidence emerged horse meat may have entered the food chain after testing positive for phenylbutazone, or bute.

But Mr Heath said sampling and results for bute can take up to three weeks – meaning it’s ‘entirely possible’ that in that time the meat could be taken abroad and consumed.

He did say the Food Standards Agency are investigating the bute claims and will take action if necessary. 

 VIDEO  Tesco: We will do DNA testing…but only from today 

Tesco admit they have let people down over horse meat burgers

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *