Horsemeat scandal: Major German supermarket is the latest to withdraw lasagne products, as David Cameron vows tough action

PM promises that everybody involved in the horsemeat scandal would face the full force of the law

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The Independent Online

A major German supermarket chain became the latest company embroiled in the European horsemeat scandal today, withdrawing packets of frozen lasagne believed to contain horsemeat.

Tengelmann said it was removing packets of its own brand ‘basics’ lasagnes from sale, but reportedly refused to identify who supplied the packets. It is the first horsemeat-related product withdrawal in Germany.

The withdrawn products come from the company’s Attraktiv und Preiswert range, which translates as ‘attractive and value for money’.

Earlier today, David Cameron promised that everybody involved in the horsemeat scandal would face the full force of the law.

The Prime Minister defended the Government's response to the growing scandal, saying it was insisting on “meaningful” tests of products by retailers and suppliers.

“If there has been criminal activity there should be the full intervention of the law,” he said.

The comments came after the Peter Boddy slaughterhouse in Todmorden, West Yorkshire, and meat processing plant Farmbox Meats at Llandre in Aberystwyth, west Wales, had records seized by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and were temporarily shut down amid claims they supplied and used horse carcasses in burgers and kebabs.

Mr Cameron said it was “appalling” and “completely unacceptable” that consumers were buying beef products that turned out to contain horsemeat.

He said many of the current issues had come to light due to tougher tests that had been ordered by ministers, and pledged that in future results would be made public.

“We have also asked for meaningful tests from retailers and producers and they will be published in full,” he added.

Earlier, FSA director of operations Andrew Rhodes said its probe had discovered “blatant misleading of consumers” and would continue until there was “nothing left to find”.

“Our investigations have determined that we found horsemeat that was produced at the plant in West Yorkshire being sent to a location in west Wales, a business called Farmbox,” he told BBC Breakfast.

“We entered that premises yesterday, FSA enforcement officers entered that premises, following up on the evidence that we found and we spoke to the staff there and we seized product, and we found that horsemeat had been used as though it were beef in kebabs and burgers at that premises.”

Asked if he was alleging that horsemeat was passed off as beef, Mr Rhodes said: “That is absolutely right, yes.

”The Food Standards Agency is a science and evidence-led organisation and we don't do things lightly. We have very good evidence to support the actions that we have taken.“

”Indeed we interviewed people on that site near Aberystwyth yesterday and those people confirmed that they received the goods that we believed they received and they told us what they had done with them.

“We are very clear on what has happened there.

”That is why we have seized all the meat that is there, that is why we have seized all the paperwork and that is why we involved the police both in Dyfed Powys and also in West Yorkshire.“

Asked if he believed that meat purporting to be beef had reached retailers and therefore had been sold to consumers, Mr Rhodes said: ”I think we have to use our language carefully.

“When we talk about retailers, people typically think about supermarkets. We don't have evidence of that at the moment, we also don't have evidence that this is being used in mass production.”

He said five slaughterhouses in the UK process horses on a regular basis. “What we have been doing is investigating the trail from all of them,” he said.

“As I say, the majority of everything we have found has been completely in order as we would expect it to be.

”We have got one particular business where we had some suspicions from the evidence we uncovered which we followed through and that led us to the investigations that we carried out near Aberystwyth yesterday.

“We will continue with that investigation and we will keep pursuing this until there is nothing left to find.”

Labour MP Anas Sawar (Glasgow Central) teased Mr Cameron that while many meat products were found to contain 100% horsemeat, if tested many of the PM's answers would contain “100% bull”.

Mr Cameron replied: “I do think that this is a serious issue. People are genuinely worried about what they are buying at the supermarket and I really think we have got to get a grip of this rather than make jokes about it.”

The DUP's Nigel Dodds (Belfast North) jokingly asked what future there was for the coalition with the Liberal Democrats if he was taking seriously the problem of “contamination and mis-labelling products”.

Mr Cameron replied: “Retailers I think do bear a real responsibility here. At the end of the day, it is they who are putting products on their shelves and have got to say that they are really clear about where that meat came from, what it was, who it was supplied by. It is up to them to check that and I think that is vitally important.”

He was then asked by Labour former cabinet minister Ben Bradshaw about whether he had eaten processed meat since the scandal erupted.

Mr Cameron said: “I follow very carefully about what the Food Standards Agency say and what the Food Standards Agency say is that there is nothing unsafe on our shelves.”

A Downing Street aide was asked after Prime Minister's Questions whether Mr Cameron's comments suggested he believed Environment Secretary Owen Paterson had not yet “got a grip” on the issue.

The aide responded “No.”

In a written ministerial statement, Mr Paterson added: “The FSA are in the process of establishing the customers of the Welsh business so that the necessary action can be taken to recall and recover products sold that may be contaminated.

”They will then notify customers. Both the slaughterhouse and the business in Wales have a legitimate trade in horsemeat, but investigations so far indicate that horsemeat has been used in UK produce as though it is beef.“

Chancellor George Osborne, campaigning in Eastleigh ahead of the by-election, side-stepped questions over whether he would be happy to eat a spaghetti bolognese ready meal.

This morning the Prime Minister's spokesman was asked if the government accepted Romanian counterpart Victor Ponta's suggestion that firms in his country were not to blame.

The spokesman replied: ”The Romanian agriculture minister is one of a number, including the French and Irish... that are meeting in Brussels.

“The right thing to do from a European angle is for us to co-operate closely with other agriculture ministers in those countries and work closely together with them to understand what has been going on.

”We are working with a range of governments to get to the bottom of what might well be fraudulent activity.

“I would describe our co-operation with all of those governments as constructive and in a spirit of understanding what has happened and what lessons may be learnt.”

Farming minister David Heath met UK food retailers and suppliers to discuss the horsemeat issue this morning.

Speaking afterwards, he said: “I reiterated that the current situation is totally unacceptable and that retailers, caterers and other food business operators need to be completely open with their customers.

”They assured me that they are on track to share meaningful test results by Friday and we discussed practical, pragmatics steps on how to take this forward.

“The Food Standards Agency will be informed immediately of any tests that show a positive contamination.

”All results will be analysed and if there is evidence of fraud then enforcement action will be taken against those responsible.“

News that the processing firm Farmbox Meats in Aberystwyth was subject to investigation was met with shock in west Wales, where the farming industry is a major employer.

The Welsh Assembly Member for Ceredigion Elin Jones, herself a farmer's daughter, said the scandal risked tarnishing the food industry in Wales.

Plaid Cymru's Miss Jones said: ”It's really disappointing that a business in Ceredigion is under suspicion for illegally labelling horsemeat as beef.

“This investigation needs to be thorough and immediate. When an event such as this happens, confidence in the whole of the meat industry is dented and the reputation of all farmers and processors are in danger of being tarnished. It's important for consumers to know that food labelled as Welsh lamb and Welsh beef has full traceability and remains the best on the market.

”I want governments and retailers to learn the lessons from this horsemeat scandal.

“In the future, the FSA should be resourced to undertake spot-check DNA sampling of meat on retailers shelves.

”The technology now exists to do this, and this scandal came to light when Irish authorities undertook such sampling. If retailers and processors were subject to random DNA checks, then this problem would soon be eradicated.“

Liz Moran, president of the Association of Public Analysts, which represents the scientists carrying out tests on suspect meat, said funding cuts meant there are not enough experts to do the job.

”We don't really have enough people to do the job. Unfortunately the public analysts service has deteriorated over the last few years due to closing laboratories and reduced numbers of public analysts,“ she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

”I don't think there are sufficient resources.“

Solicitor Aled Owen, who is representing Farmbox Meats, said the Welsh processing firm denied any wrongdoing.

”They have co-operated completely in the inquiry and provided all information when requested,“ he said in a statement.

”The audit trail for the horse meat at the plant is clear - from the point of slaughter in Ireland, to the cutting at the company premises, to eventual delivery in Belgium.

“The company would wish to express its dissatisfaction with the comments made by the FSA which are untrue.

”The company officers and their families would also like to thank friends and neighbours for their support at this difficult time.“

Asked whether Mr Cameron felt that the Government had ”got a grip“ of the horsemeat issue, the Prime Minister's official spokesman told reporters: ”We have.“

He added: ”The Government, working with the FSA, is doing the right thing.

“He was referring to the process by which we have been putting in place, over the past few weeks since the first evidence was found of contamination, the appropriate measures.”

Mr Cameron's assurance that there was “nothing unsafe” on supermarket shelves was based on “clear advice from the FSA and the Chief Medical Officer”, said the spokesman.

Shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh called for Europe-wide testing of meat products, raising concerns that horsemeat sometimes contained the painkiller bute.

“With every passing day this scandal seems to get wider,” she said. “I raised the problem of bute-contaminated horsemeat being released into the food chain with Defra ministers last month, yet up until two days ago horses were still not being tested for bute and were being released for human consumption.

”Parliamentary answers released this week show 9,405 horses were slaughtered in the UK for human consumption abroad last year. We must make surehorsemeat is not contaminated with bute.

“We need other European countries to test for horsemeat to see how far this horse adulteration has spread.

”It is not just the food industry that is losing faith with Owen Paterson, the Prime Minister is too.“