Feb. 17, 2013 It all started when the Irish Food Standard Authority realised, mid-January, that some of the burgers sold in the country (and in the UK) contained about 29% of equine DNA, upon testing. This was much more than could not be accounted for by cross contamination in a meat factory. Tracing the meat back through complex supply chain, the manufacturer pointed the finger at a meat producer in Poland. At the time of writing, this possible source of contamination has not been confirmed. Doubt remains, particularly because Ireland has been known for poor traceability of its own horse meat aimed at export, which was found to have falsified passports.
This issue then became a Europe wide concern when routine testing in the UK, in early February, led the UK Food Standards Agency to confirm that the meat content of beef lasagne recalled by Findus had tested positive for more than 60% horse meat. And further DNA testing is now underway for other types of meat.
Tracking the origin of that meat in the food supply chain started from the meals manufacturing plant in Luxembourg, back to the two main suppliers in France, via Dutch and Cypriot meat brokers, all the way back to a Romanian slaughterhouse. A recent ban on horse carriage on Romanian road has been reported as being a possible reason for an influx of equine meat in the legal Romanian meat circuit. As of mid-February, the French anti-fraud squad suspects that the Romanian horse meat might have been re-labelled as beef by one of the French supply chain intermediaries.
But further testing has since revealed that horse meat carcass exported by the UK to France contained a veterinary medicine called 'bute', rendering the meat unsuitable for human consumption. The EU has since ordered a campaign of 2,500 random DNA tests on processed beef and further 4,000 tests for 'bute' to be concluded mid-April.
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