Government begins horsemeat inquiry

'Wide-ranging review' aims to restore consumer confidence

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The Independent Online

The Government has launched a wide-ranging review into the horsemeat scandal to ensure it is never repeated.

The inquiry is set to identify any vulnerabilities in the food-chain so as to restore customers' “confidence in the food they buy”.

Food Minister David Heath said: “Consumers have a right to expect that food is exactly what it says on the label.

”We are establishing a wide-ranging review to help restore consumer confidence by looking at our whole food system, identifying weaknesses and looking at what food businesses, regulators and government are responsible for.“

In January, traces of horsemeat were found in items labelled and sold as beef in a number of supermarkets. As a result, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) requested that local authorities test for horse and pig DNA above a 1 per cent threshold in minced beef products and ready meals sold at shops, wholesalers and catering suppliers.

Gangs from Italy and Poland have been implicated in contaminated products distributed around Europe, with multimillion-pound scams to substitute horsemeat for beef during food production.

Earlier this month, Asda admitted it had recorded ”very low levels“ of phenylbutazone, an anti-inflammatory treatment which could have a dangerous effect on humans.

The furore rumbled on with the Food Standards Agency (FSA) claiming a small number of UK businesses may have received products from a Dutch company that supplied some 50,000 tonnes of meat that could have contained horsemeat.

The FSA said it had “been advised of the withdrawal issued by the Dutch authorities today in relation to beef products that may potentially contain horsemeat.”

While it confirmed there was no food safety issue at this stage, it added that it was “following up with these businesses as a matter of urgency to determine if they have received products from the Dutch company.”

Meanwhile, a British meat plant which was at the centre of the affair was forced to close over food safety concerns, last week.

Farmbox Meats Ltd, in Llandre, near Aberystwyth, mid-Wales, was one of two of the first plants to be raided following suspicions it was passing off horse meat in products advertised as beef. Owner Dafydd Raw-Rees, 64, said he planned to contest the decision and planned to take legal action against the FSA.