(Daily Mail) Tesco has admitted that samples of its frozen Bolognese ready meals were up to 100 per cent horsemeat
The Everyday Value Spaghetti Bolognese, which sells for £1, was made for the supermarket giant by Comigel of France.
This is the same company implicated in the manufacture of beef products for Findus and Aldi, which were contaminated with horsemeat.
It is claimed that horses slaughtered in Romania were used by Comigel factories to make ready meals distributed across Britain and Europe.
As the contamination scandal deepens, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) is conducting tests to determine whether veterinary drug phenylbutazone, known as bute, is present in some of the horsemeat.
Animals treated with the drug are not allowed to enter the food chain.
The Tesco group technical director, Tim Smith, apologised to customers over the latest revelation.
He said: ‘A week ago Tesco withdrew a frozen Everyday Value Spaghetti Bolognese product from sale.
‘We did this as a precaution because Findus products from the same factory were reportedly at risk of containing horsemeat.
‘Since then, we have carried out a number of tests on the product and those tests identified the presence of horse DNA.
‘Of the positive results, most are at a trace level of less than one per cent but three showed significant levels of horse DNA, exceeding 60 per cent.
‘We have carried out further tests to ensure that there is no danger to health through the presence of potentially harmful bute. The test for bute was clear.’
He added: ‘The frozen Everyday Value Spaghetti Bolognese should contain only Irish beef from our approved suppliers.
‘The source of the horsemeat is still under investigation by the relevant authorities.
‘The level of contamination suggests that Comigel was not following the appropriate production process for our Tesco product and we will not take food from their facility again.’
Mr Smith, who is former chief executive of the Food Standards Agency, said: ‘We are very sorry that we have let customers down.
‘We set ourselves high standards for the food we sell and we have had two cases in recent weeks where we have not met those standards.
‘Our DNA testing programme is underway and will give us and our customers assurance that the product they buy is what it should be.’
Tesco’s shock announcements are the latest news in the horsemeat scandal that has rocked consumer confidence in retailers and producers.
Families could still be unwittingly tucking into horsemeat which may be harmful to human health, the Environment Secretary warned yesterday.
Owen Paterson said he was prepared for ‘further bad news’ as the results of tests on processed beef products are published later this week.
And today he announced to the House of Commons that officers from the Metropolitan Police have met with counterparts at Europol about a potential criminal fraud investigation.
He said: ‘The events we have seen over the past few days in the UK and in Europe are completely unacceptable.
‘Consumers need to be confident that food is what it says on the label. It’s outrageous that consumers have been buying products labelled beef that have turned out to be horsemeat.’
He says the investigation into the source of the horsemeat is still ongoing and that major food retailers are in the process of testing meat products, and must report the results by Friday at the latest.
‘Food businesses need to do whatever is necessary to provide reassurance to consumers that their products are what they say they are,’ he added.
‘There needs to be openness and transparency in the system.’
Mr Paterson said that unless products had been designated as unsafe by the Food Standards Agency, consumers should not worry.
He said: ‘The advice on food is very, very simple. I have been completely consistent on this. I have been absolutely clear, the independent agency which gives professional advice is the Food Standards Agency.
‘I, you, MPs, and the public should follow their advice – so as long as products are free for sale and they have not been recommended for withdrawal by the Food Standards Agency, they are safe for human consumption.’
Moments earlier, Mr Paterson told MPs it appeared that ‘criminal activity’ had been at the heart of the scandal.
He said there would be immediate testing of products across the supply chain, telling the Commons this would also include tests at schools, hospitals and prisons.
The FSA had also reassured him that the products recalled did not present a risk to the public, but consumers who had bought Findus beef lasagnes should return them to the shop they had bought them from as a ‘precaution’.
He said the ‘ultimate source’ of the problem was not yet known but agencies were investigating a supply network that stretched across Europe.
Mr Paterson said: ‘At the moment this appears to be an issue of fraud and mis-labelling, but if anything suggests the need for changes to surveillance and enforcement in the UK we will not hesitate to make those changes.
‘Once we have established the full facts of the current incidents and identified where enforcement action can be taken, we will want to look at the lessons that can be learned from this episode.
‘I want to re-iterate that I completely understand why people are so concerned about this issue. It is unacceptable that people have been deceived in this way. There appears to have been criminal activity in an attempt to defraud the consumer.
‘The prime responsibility for dealing with this lies with retailers and food producers who need to demonstrate that they have taken all necessary actions to ensure the integrity of the food chain in this country.’
There are an estimated 70,000 horses unaccounted for in Northern Ireland, Labour claimed today as the Government sought to allay fears that contaminated meat was being sold in British supermarkets.
Shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh said unwanted horses were given false paperwork in Northern Ireland before being sold for 10 euro (£8) and then resold to dealers for meat for as much as 500 euro (£423).
She said there was currently a ‘lucrative’ trade in horses, claiming that while the Polish and Romanians were being ‘conveniently’ blamed for the scandal, the contamination problem had started across the Irish Sea.
Speaking in the Commons, Ms Creagh said: ‘The Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals have clear evidence of an illegal trade of unfit horses from Ireland to the UK for meat, with horses being re-passported to meet demands for horse meat in mainland Europe.
‘It says that there are currently 70,000 horses unaccounted for in Northern Ireland. Unwanted horses are being sold for 10 euro and being sold on for meat for 500 euro – a lucrative trade.
‘It is very convenient to blame the Poles and the Romanians but so far neither country have found any problems with their beef abattoirs.’
Many horses are also believed to be contaminated with the carcinogen phenylbutazone, often referred to as bute, she said, claiming that the Environment Secretary Owen Paterson had been ‘incompetent’.
The lack of information from the Government had been a ‘disgrace’, Ms Creagh added, telling MPs the British public’s confidence in the food chain was ‘sinking like a stone’.
Ms Creagh accused the Environment Secretary of not taking the situation seriously enough as he had to be called back to London from a long weekend last Friday to deal with the crisis.
She also claimed the Environment Agency and police failed to act on information she provided that three British companies were involved in potentially importing beef that contained horse.
The information was handed to the Serious and Organised Crime Agency but there was no ‘live’ investigation.
Mr Paterson also failed to share the names of the three companies with industry leaders during a meeting on Saturday, Ms Creagh told MPs, adding the Government was ‘dangerously complacent’ about the situation.
It was not good enough for there to be a 10-week delay before the results of the first tests are known, she added, as she accused Mr Paterson of ‘hiding behind civil servants’.
Ms Creagh added: ‘The French government estimates that the Findus fraud alone has netted criminals 300,000 euros. This is clearly big criminal business.’
Meanwhile, officials are investigating whether a Romanian abattoir was the ultimate source of the ‘beef’ products harbouring horsemeat in Britain, via France.
The chairman of the Commons food and rural affairs committee, Conservative MP Anne McIntosh, yesterday reiterated calls for a temporary ban on all processed or frozen meat imports from the EU until the source of the contamination was found.
But Mr Paterson said it was impossible to ban imported meat products within the rules of the EU. A moratorium along the lines of the Continental ban on British beef during the BSE scare would only be permitted if products adulterated with horsemeat are found to be a health risk.