Horse meat scandal review announced
The Government is launching a wide-ranging review into the horse meat scandal to restore consumer confidence in the food they buy.
The move comes after a series of revelations that beef products sold in supermarkets and served in schools and hospitals contained horse meat.
The review will look at the responsibilities of food businesses and practices throughout the chain including auditing, testing, safety, food authenticity and health issues. It will also look at how vulnerable the food chain and food regulatory system is to being exploited for fraud.
Food Minister David Heath said: "Consumers have a right to expect that food is exactly what it says on the label. We are establishing a wide-ranging review to help restore consumer confidence by looking at our whole food system, identifying weaknesses and looking at what food businesses, regulators and government are responsible for."
The scandal first began to unfold in January when it emerged that frozen burgers supplied to several supermarkets including Tesco contained horse DNA. Investigations revealed other beef products sold by retailers including lasagne and spaghetti bolognese were contaminated while meals in schools and hospitals had to be withdrawn after it was found they contained horse meat.
Last week Asda reported a test on its smart price corned beef had tested positive for very low levels of horse drug phenylbutazone, or bute, which is banned from the human food chain.
The corned beef had previously been found to contain horse DNA and is the only product to test positive for bute since the scandal began. Officials said horse meat containing bute at very low levels presents a very low risk to human health.
The Netherlands has recalled 50,000 tonnes of meat sold across Europe as beef over a two-year period which may contain horse meat. A small number of UK businesses may have received products from a trading company selling the meat.
Shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh said: "Incompetent ministers took four weeks to urge to school and hospital caterers to check their suppliers, dismissed concerns about bute-contaminated horse meat entering the food chain and failed to ensure speed and transparency in the testing process.
"Tory ministers' ideologically-driven fragmentation of the Food Standards Agency in 2010 weakened our national regulatory framework and the loss of over 700 trading standards officers makes it harder to detect consumer fraud. All that now needs to change to restore consumer confidence in our food industry."