Police and Food Standards Agency raid Yorkshire abattoir accused of supplying horsemeat 'kebabs'

Waitrose said it had withdrawn its Essential British Frozen Meatballs after pork was bound in two batches

Police and food hygiene officers raided and shut down a British abattoir and a meat manufacturer tonight as part of an inquiry into the adulteration of beef products with horsemeat.

The Food Standards Agency said it had uncovered apparently “blatant misleading of consumers” by the  manufacture of kebabs and burgers that allegedly contained horse. Owen Paterson, the Environment Secretary, called it “absolutely shocking”, as he prepared to fly to Brussels for a horsemeat summit.

Investigators, backed by police, swooped on a West Yorkshire abattoir and a meat-processing plant in north Wales and ordered their immediate closure after seizing paperwork, including the companies’ client lists.

In a day of rapid developments in the deepening scandal, Waitrose said it had withdrawn its Essential British Frozen Meatballs after pork was detected in two batches. The supermarket said the “contradictory” results on the meatballs with a best-before date of 13 June and 13 August had caused it to withdraw them from sale.

The FSA said it raided the Peter Boddy Slaughterhouse in Todmorden after obtaining information suggesting that it supplied horse carcasses to Farmbox Meats in Aberystwyth. The agency was unable to say which shops had received products from the firms. “We are looking into the circumstances through which meat products, purporting to be beef for kebabs or burgers, were sold when they were in fact horse,” the FSA said.

The raids follow last month’s revelation that beefburgers processed in Ireland and Yorkshire, and sold in British and Irish supermarkets, were found to contain horse meat. The discovery led to the withdrawal from sale of tens of thousands of burgers by shops including Tesco and Iceland, and the precautionary withdrawal of up to ten million more patties.

Andrew Rhodes, the FSA operations director, said after tonight’s raids: “I ordered an audit of all horse-producing abattoirs in the UK after this issue first arose last month, and I was shocked to uncover what appears to be blatant misleading of consumers. I have suspended both plants immediately while our investigations continue.”

Mr Paterson said: “It is totally unacceptable if any business in the UK is defrauding the public by passing off horse meat as beef. I expect the full force of the law to be brought down on anyone involved in this kind of activity.”

The Peter Boddy Slaughterhouse won planning consent in 2007 despite opposition from residents who claimed it was sited too near homes and its buildings were poorly designed. A representative of Mr Boddy, who had been operating a smaller slaughter operation for nearly 30 years before that, said concerns raised by the authorities were addressed before it opened.

Earlier this week, Mary Creagh, the Shadow Environment Secretary, said the names of three British companies implicated in horse meat mislabelling had not been passed to major retailers so they could check supply chains.

A leading food scientist claimed that a major shift in UK meat production, ordered at short notice by the European Commission, was at the root of the horse meat scandal. Last year, Brussels abruptly banned the use of desinewed meat (DSM) – the scraps recovered from animal carcasses after the prime cuts have been removed. DSM had long been a major part of the supply chain for British meat products.

Dr Mark Woolfe, a former head of food authenticity at the FSA, said the move left suppliers 48 hours in which to look for alternative sources of cheap meat. This forced them to look abroad, where supply chains were not so well regulated.

Dr Woolfe said “thousands of tonnes” of DSM had been used in British meat products every year and suppliers worked to very tight margins, but when they had to stop using it, retailers such as supermarkets did not offer them any increased prices in compensation. “So a lot of suppliers went abroad to find alternative sources of cheap meat, and that is when things went wrong,” he added.

The blame game: Who’s at fault for contaminating the food chain

Farmers

Britain produces and slaughters 8,000 horses for human consumption every year, compared with 2.2 million cattle. British beef is a big business with a hard-won reputation for quality. In the wake of the BSE crisis, beef farmers are subject to stringent traceability requirements for all their animals.

Abattoirs

Though highly regulated, abattoirs are under scrutiny after claims there is a “murky” side to the meat processing industry. French and British officials pointed the finger at two Romanian abattoirs for supplying horse meat found in beef ready meals.

The brokers

The European meat supply business is kept moving by a “mafia-like” network of brokers. French-based Comigel sourced its meat, later found to be horse, used in products for Findus and Tesco, from a company using brokers hundreds of miles apart. 

Processors, food manufacturers

Comigel used another French company, Spanghero, to source its meat, which found suppliers from across Europe, including Romania. Every consignment of unprocessed meat must be fully traceable, but there is no rule governing origin labelling for processed products like mince.

Supermarkets

Ministers state that retailers are responsible for guaranteeing the content of food offered for sale. In the wake of the horse meat-scandal, Tesco has blamed its supplier, Comigel, for apparently failing to follow an agreed manufacturing process.

Food Standards Authority

The independent food regulator stopped regular testing for horse meat DNA in beef or other meats in 2003, adopting instead an “intelligence-led” approach to detect fraud or adulteration. All that has now changed but critics say the FSA took its eye off the ball and should have done more.

Europe

The Environment Secretary Owen Paterson insists food safety is a “European competence” which prevents Britain from banning meat imports without proof of a health risk. The European Commission has said the scandal was a “labelling issue”, which individual governments could resolve.

Defra and the Government

The Government has spoken darkly of a conspiracy by organised crime to pass off horse meat as beef. But the Food ministry has been criticised for relieving the Food Standards Agency of control of “food authenticity” and labelling. It has also presided over the loss of 700 trading standards officers in the past two years.

News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Sport
Rio Ferdinand returns for QPR
sportRio Ferdinand returns from his three-game suspension today
News
The Speaker of the House will takes his turn as guest editor of the Today programme
arts + ents
News
people

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
Sport
Billy Twelvetrees will start for England against Australia tomorrow with Owen Farrell dropping to the bench
rugbyEngland need a victory against Australia today
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
books
Sport
Tyson Fury poses outside the Imperial War Museum in south London ahead of his fight against Dereck Chisora
boxingAll British heavyweight clash gets underway on Saturday night
News
i100 Charity collates series of videos that show acts of kindness to animals
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game