Schools and care supplier in horse DNA alert

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A catering giant that supplies food to schools, care homes and the armed forces has withdrawn beef from its UK sites after a frozen product tested positive for horse DNA.

Sodexo, which provides services at around 2,300 outlets, said the situation was “totally unacceptable” and the products were being recalled “with immediate effect”.

The company has now launched an investigation into how beef products were contaminated with horsemeat.

Earlier, Birds Eye announced it was withdrawing three beef ready meals from sale in the UK and Ireland.

The move follows tests that found two per cent of horse DNA in a chilli con carne dish sold by Birds Eye in Belgium.

Birds Eye’s spaghetti bolognese, shepherd’s pie and lasagne are made by the same Belgian manufacturer, Frigilunch N.V., and are being withdrawn “as a precautionary measure”.

The news came after the Food Standards Agency released the latest tranche of test results submitted by the food industry.

They showed that out of 1,133 meat products checked, only six – including Sodexo’s – were positive for horse.

In the second wave of tests, the products linked to samples showing equine DNA were Asda’s chilled beef bolognese sauce, Sodexo’s beef burgers, minced beef and halal minced beef, and a Whitbread Group lasagne and beef burger.

They are the latest companies to announce their products have tested positive for equine DNA in the wake of the scandal.

Scotland’s councils have been told not to use any frozen beef products after a burger containing horse DNA was found in a school kitchen.

North Lanarkshire Council said a frozen burger supplied by Brakes Group to Cumbernauld High School was found to be contaminated with horse DNA.

It said the situation was “simply unacceptable” and a spokesman was not able to confirm that the products had not already been consumed.

Local authorities across Scotland were earlier advised to “place a hold” on frozen beefburgers following the discovery.

The measures mean that schools, council leisure facilities and some social care establishments have also been told not to use any current stocks they have of frozen beef products.

They were also advised not to order any new stocks until the outcome of detailed investigations.

A processing plant in Ireland has also been shut down after inspectors found it was exporting horse meat under a label in the Czech language which translated as beef.

B&F Meats, a small-scale deboning factory in Carrick-on-Suir, Co Tipperary, was selling mislabelled product to a customer in the Czech Republic through a trader based in the UK.

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said all operations at the plant have been suspended.

“I am seriously concerned about this development and the gardai have been fully appraised of this development and are working closely with my department,” he said. “The issue here is one of mislabelling and that will be the focus of the investigation.”

Officers from the Department of Agriculture’s special investigations unit were carrying out searches at the factory yesterday.

The Food Standards Agency, which this week expanded its testing regime, said no tests to date on samples containing horse DNA have found the veterinary drug phenylbutazone, or bute, to be present.