LONDON – British authorities warned the public Thursday not to eat beef lasagna sold by the Findus brand and made in France after tests found it contained up to 100 percent horse meat.
In the latest in a string of food scares in Britain, the Food Standards Agency said that “criminal activity” was likely to blame and ordered further tests on the meat for a veterinary drug. Findus tested 18 of its beef lasagna products manufactured by supplier Comigel in France and found 11 meals containing 60 to 100 percent horse meat, the agency said.
“Findus withdrew the beef lasagne products after its French supplier, Comigel, raised concerns about the type of meat used in the lasagne,” the agency said in a statement.
The agency said tests on the lasagna were ordered “as part of its ongoing investigation into mislabeled meat,” adding, “We have no evidence to suggest that this is a food safety risk.”
But it said it has ordered further tests on the suspect lasagna for the veterinary drug phenylbutazone, as meat from animals treated with it is not allowed to enter the food chain in Britain.
Catherine Brown, the agency’s chief executive, said it was an “appalling” situation.”
“I have to say that the two cases of gross contamination that we see here indicates that it is highly likely there has been criminal and fraudulent activity involved,” she told BBC news. “We are demanding that food businesses conduct authenticity tests on all beef products, such as beef burgers, meatballs and lasagna, and provide the results to the FSA. The tests will be for the presence of significant levels of horse meat.”
Findus U.K. apologized to customers. “We understand this it is a very sensitive subject for consumers and we would like to reassure you we have reacted immediately. We do not believe this to be a food safety issue,” a spokesman said, adding that “fully compliant beef lasagna will be in stores again soon.”
It is the latest horse meat-related scare after horse DNA was found two weeks ago in hamburgers in Britain and Ireland, countries where horse meat consumption is generally taboo.
Two weeks ago, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland revealed that up to 29 percent of the meat content of some beef burgers was in fact horse, while it also found pig DNA. The frozen burgers were on sale in high-street supermarket chains Tesco and Iceland in both Britain and Ireland, and in Irish branches of Lidl, Aldi and Dunnes Stores.
Investigations in Poland have so far found no evidence backing Irish claims that Poland was the source of thne horse meat that ended up in Irish and British burgers.
Jaroslaw Naze, deputy head of Poland’s General Veterinary Inspectorate, said Thursday that Ireland needs to hand over more documentary evidence, including labels on the suspected meat supplies, so Polish officials can complete their investigation.