Horsemeat scandal: Burgers were made with Polish offcuts, says FSA

 

The “filler product” found in contaminated burgers sold in supermarkets came from Poland and was a mixture of beef and horse offcuts, according to Irish authorities, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has said.

The contaminated meat was in the form of blocks of frozen product from a Polish supplier that 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.

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."

Asked if the burgers posed a health risk, she replied: "There is no evidence at the moment that there has been any unsafe food produced.

"Clearly what we all rely on in terms of a safe food to eat is a fully functioning system of controls and a set of audits which check to all of our satisfaction that that robust set of controls are being consistently applied. So where you find a case where they haven't, it raises your general level of anxiety about the wider system.

"But, as I say, the tests that the Irish did indicate that there's nothing to be concerned about."

The meat was processed at the Silvercrest plant in County Monaghan.

Earlier in the day, Tesco announced that it had dropped Silvercrest as a supplier in the wake of the horse burger scandal over a "breach of trust".

The supermarket was forced to issue a public apology earlier this month after tests discovered traces of the animal in beef products.

Today Tesco accepted responsibility for the fiasco but appeared to pin much of the blame on its supplier.

It said Silvercrest failed to comply with company policy, sourcing meat from abroad.

It has now vowed to introduce a new DNA testing system designed to detect any "deviation from our high standards".

Tesco group technical director Tim Smith told the committee the retailer did not have a different set of standards for its "value" burgers - found to have been contaminated with horsemeat - than any of its other lines.

He told the committee: "You end up doing pretty much the same level of check whatever the product is.

"My reassurance to Tesco customers is pretty straightforward: the rigor, the surveillance, the quality checking, the auditing take no notice of whatever the price that that product is being sold at or the recipe."

Under repeated questioning from the MPs regarding where responsibility for where the contamination lay, health minister Anna Soubry said: "We don't know whether or not the Irish, the people that made the burgers, didn't themselves know that the meat coming in was in some way contaminated. We don't know that yet.

"So therefore it could be that there is a genuine fault in Poland with the particular supplier of this meat, either deliberately or not deliberately because they haven't been doing the right checks. And until we can establish all those facts we can't roll it back in order to find out where the responsibility lies."

In a separate development, The Co-operative Group announced that independent tests of its own-brand burgers supplied by Silvercrest had found traces of less than 1% horse DNA in three samples and 17.7% in one sample.

A Co-operative spokeswoman said: "Our decision to withdraw these products at the first opportunity and cease taking further product from this site has proven to be the correct course of action.

"Whilst there are no safety issues involved, it is now apparent that some of the withdrawn products have not met the high standards we and our customers expect. We apologise for this.

"We specify that all meat in our frozen burgers should be 100% British but we now strongly believe that some of the meat used to produce these burgers came from outside the UK and was not British in origin, and as a result we have taken the decision to delist Silvercrest as a supplier with immediate effect.

"In addition we are tightening our already stringent quality checks to ensure our products meet the high specifications that we set on behalf of our customers."

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions