Checks extended for horsemeat in food as agency involves police

The Findus factory in Longbenton, North Tyneside
The Findus factory in Longbenton, North Tyneside
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Environment Secretary Owen Paterson is to hold a horsemeat summit with the Food Standards Agency and retailers in the wake of revelations that some products may have been contaminated since August.

Mr Paterson will hold the meeting today at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, his spokesman confirmed last night after it emerged that officials at the FSA had met with officers from the Metropolitan Police.

The Findus factory in Longbenton, North Tyneside

The Findus factory in Longbenton, North Tyneside

A spokesman for Scotland Yard said no official investigation was currently underway.

As the scale of the scandal continues to grow, at least one council in Yorkshire is to test sausages and burgers from shops, wholesale and catering outlets.

The FSA has asked 28 local authorities, among them York, to take samples to check for undeclared pork and horsemeat.

The agency said the significant amount of horsemeat found in frozen burgers and lasagne, pointed to either “gross negligence or deliberate contamination in the food chain”, and they had involved the Metropolitan Police and forces across Europe.

Major supermarkets and manufacturers have been instructed to “urgently” carry out their own tests for horsemeat in processed beef products to help get a clearer picture of how widespread the problem is.

Last night supermarket Aldi said tests on its Today’s Special frozen beef lasagne and Today’s Special frozen spaghetti bolognese, which are produced by French supplier Comigel, were found to contain between 30 per cent and 100 per cent horsemeat.

A spokeswoman for York Council said it would be carrying out its tests “imminently”.

The food agency said samples acquired from commercial and wholesale outlets across the UK would be submitted to “the local authority-appointed public analyst”. Tests have to be completed by March 11, with the results back by April 8.

Frozen food giant Findus yesterday reiterated its apology over some of its beef lasagne products containing horsemeat after claims contamination could stretch back to the summer.

The company said it was “sorry that we have let people down” and confirmed it carried out a full product recall on Monday, two days before DNA tests confirmed that some of its products, made by Comigel, contained up to 100 per cent horsemeat and it alerted the FSA.

The Trading Standards Institute said the discovery of such high levels of horsemeat suggested “fraudulent activity, not accidental contamination”.

As politicians reiterated advice that there was no public health risk, Agriculture and Food Minister David Heath said people should carry on with their usual shopping habits until they are told to do otherwise.

Mr Heath added he was “staggered” by the recent findings, but stressed: “If there is any risk whatsoever, people will be told”.

But Shadow Environment Secretary Mary Creagh, who has questioned why a police investigation is not already underway, said she would not be eating any processed food labelled as containing beef, and said she was waiting for the Government and scientists to issue “proper, clear advice”.

Meanwhile, the GMB called on the Government to make all hospitals, schools and meals on wheel services verify that they have not been serving up horsemeat.

Hull Council and Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust said they had received assurances from suppliers. Others including Sheffield Council and Northern Lincolnshire and Goole Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust were checking with suppliers.

Meanwhile Hull company Flexi Foods, based in Inglemire Lane, which has been named as the supplier of meat containing horse DNA to Irish business McAdam Foods, said it was voluntarily co-operating with the Food Standard Agency’s investigation and requests for information.