Three new firms in horsemeat scandal

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Beef products sold by Birds Eye, Taco Bell and catering supplier Brakes have been found to contain horse DNA in the latest round of tests carried out since the start of the meat scandal, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) said yesterday.

The third round of tests carried out since January revealed contamination of Birds Eye Traditional Spaghetti Bolognese and Beef Lasagne, Taco Bell ground beef and Brakes spicy minced beef skewer, the FSA said.

Ten tests on the four products returned results of more than one per cent horse meat, the agency said, and all four have been withdrawn from sale.

US-owned Tex-Mex restaurant chain Taco Bell said that it was “disappointed” to have discovered the horse meat in tests it carried out on beef supplied to its UK restaurants by a sole European supplier.

“We immediately withdrew ground beef from sale in our restaurants, discontinued purchase of that meat, and contacted the Food Standards Agency with this information,” it said in a statement apologising to customers.

Birds Eye had already withdrawn the spaghetti bolognese, lasagne and a third ready meal, a shepherd’s pie, from sale in Britain and the Republic of Ireland as a precaution after tests found two per cent of horse DNA in a chilli con carne dish it sold in Belgium.

They are made by the same Belgian manufacturer, Frigilunch NV.

“No other Birds Eye products have tested positive for horse DNA, nor do they share the same supply chains as Frigilunch NV,” the company said in a statement.

“Going forward we are introducing a new ongoing DNA testing programme that will ensure no minced beef meat product can leave our facilities without first having been cleared by DNA testing.”

Brakes, which is based in Ashford, Kent, is the supplier for the House of Commons Catering Service, among 19,00 customers, and last month it withdrew its steak and kidney pie, beef and onion pie, steak and kidney suet pudding, and beef Italian meatballs as a precaution.