British firms ordered to make checks after Dutch authorities recall 50,000 tonnes of meat

Every single meat product sold by two Dutch suppliers as beef in more than two years is under suspicion

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The Independent Online

A host of British companies have been ordered to investigate whether they are caught up in the latest wave of the horsemeat scandal after the Dutch authorities recalled 50,000 tonnes of meat.

The Food Standards Agency confirmed it has contacted firms "as a matter of urgency" over the news that every single meat product sold by two Dutch suppliers as beef in more than two years was under suspicion.

The FSA's Dutch counterpart the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority announced that it could not vouch for the meat, which may contain horse, and recalled it. The meat was believed to have been sold on to more than 500 companies across 16 European countries; including Britain.

The Dutch food authority said in a statement that because the exact source of the meat cannot be traced "its safety cannot be guaranteed." The statement added: "Because of the unclear origin of consignments of meat, the food safety of the meat cannot be guaranteed… At this moment there are no concrete indications that there is a danger to public health."

A spokesman for the FSA said it has "been advised of the withdrawal issued by the Dutch authorities today, in relation to beef products that may potentially contain horsemeat. Information from the Dutch authorities confirms that there is no reason to suggest this is a food safety issue at this stage.

"The FSA has been informed by the Dutch authorities that a small number of UK businesses may potentially have received products from the company implicated in their investigation. The FSA is following up with these businesses as a matter of urgency to determine if they have received products from the Dutch company."

According to the Associated Press, the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority said the recall covers meat sales dating from January 1 2011 to February 15 this year, when the companies at the heart of the recall were placed under heightened scrutiny and faced criminal investigations.

A spokesman admitted that, because the recall dates back more than two years, some of the meat "may already have been consumed." She said authorities are bound by law to recall the meat if it is unclear where exactly it came from. "If meat has an unclear source then the law - the general food law - says it is no longer fit for human or animal food," she said.

Dutch authorities began a large-scale investigation into the country's meat industry in February after the horse meat scandal broke across Europe.

The authority named two companies with the same owner as the source of the meat covered by today's  recall: Wiljo Import en Export B.V. and Vleesgroothandel Willy Selten B.V.

It was not immediately clear how much of the meat is likely to be tracked down. Dutch authorities say they have no plans to test all the meat. The recall covers countries including France, Germany and Spain and the nations involved are responsible for managing it.