The Food Standards Agency’s four-point action plan for its horse meat burger investigation includes discovering the source of the contamination and discussing whether legal action is required.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has set out a four-point action plan for its investigation into how a number of beef products on sale in branches of Tesco, Aldi, Lidl and Iceland in the UK and Ireland came to contain traces of horse meat.

Following the FSAI's finding of horse DNA in beef burgers sold in the UK and Ireland, the Food Standards Agensy has announced its four-point action plan to investigate the cause.Following a meeting with the food industry on January 16 the agency has decided to split the investigation into two cases as:

  • In all but one of the cases, the levels of horse DNA were extremely low, while;
  • in the one exceptional case (Tesco Everyday Value Beef Burgers), the level of horse meat accounted for 29% of the meat content.

“The causes of these two problems are therefore likely to be different,” said the agency. Therefore, its investigation requires four steps, which it says will be carried out “in conjunction with other Government departments, local authorities and the food industry”. These steps are:

  • to continue reviewing the traceability of the food products identified by the Food Standard Authority of Ireland (FSAI). Affected retailers and the UK supplier (Dalepak Hambleton) named in the survey have been asked by the agency to provide comprehensive information on the findings by the end of January 18;
  • to work in conjunction with the FSAI to understand more clearly the factors that may have led to the low level cases of cross-contamination;
  • to work with relevant local authorities and the FSAI to discuss whether any legal action is appropriate following the investigation; and
  • to work with DEFRA and the devolved rural affairs departments and local authorities to embark on a UK-wide study of food authenticity in processed meat products.

The meeting took place after the FSAI’s January 15 announcement that it had found horse DNA in 10 of 27 beef burger products it had tested. The products had been processed in two plants in Ireland and one in the UK.

Affected retailers withdrew all suspected products from the shelves and insisted product quality was of highest importance.

Meanwhile, Tesco has today published full page adverts in a number of UK national newspapers, apologising for the situation and promising to “find out exactly what happened“. Further, DEFRA has announced that it will be working with the FSA and that “any appropriate enforcement action will be taken” pending the investigation.

In other supermarkets, Asda, Co-op and Sainsbury’s have withdrawn their frozen beef burger ranges from shelves after it emerged they used the same supplier as the affected retailers. However, the three companies say they are not affected and have cleared shelves as a ‘precautionary measure’.

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