November 29, 2020

Iglo and Birds Eye Pull Meals After Finding Horse Meat

LONDON — Another big food producer was ensnared in the scandal over horse meat in beef products Friday when the company that owns the Iglo and Birds Eye brands withdrew a dozen types of prepared meals from stores in four European countries.

Iglo Foods Group, the parent company, said it took the action after a chili con carne dish, produced by a Belgian company called Frigilunch and on sale in Belgium, was found to contain about 2 percent horse meat.

“As a precautionary measure, we will withdraw all other beef products produced for us by Frigilunch,” Iglo Foods said. “Whilst this is not a food safety issue, it is clearly unacceptable.”

In addition to the chili con carne, seven more Iglo products were removed from Belgian supermarkets, and one from stores in the Netherlands. Meanwhile, three Birds Eye meals — spaghetti Bolognese, shepherd’s pie and lasagne — were withdrawn in Britain and Ireland.

The announcement came as the Food Standards Agency in Britain released updated figures for tests conducted by the food industry in that country, showing that just 1 percent of beef products sampled contained 1 percent or more of horse meat.

But as the scandal continues, more instances of horse meat disguised as beef are surfacing. The Irish government said Friday that officials had closed a meat processor in Carrick-on-Suir, BF Meats, after discovering that the company had shipped horse meat labeled as beef to the Czech Republic.

With food suppliers and regulators stepping up their monitoring, new cases of beef products tainted with horse meat, which is significantly less expensive than beef, are being found almost every day. About a dozen European countries have been touched by the scandal.

This past week, Nestlé, one of the best-known food companies in the world, said it was removing pasta meals from store shelves in Italy and Spain. Already most of the big supermarket chains in Britain have withdrawn products, including millions of hamburgers.

In Britain there is growing concern about the contents of school meals. On Friday, local governments in Scotland were urged by the procurement agency, Scotland Excel, “not to use any current stocks they hold of frozen beef products, including frozen beef mince, or order any new stocks, until the outcome of further, detailed investigations.”

That announcement followed the discovery of traces of horse DNA in a frozen burger taken from a school kitchen in North Lanarkshire.

There was more reassuring news Friday from the Food Standards Agency, which said it had now received 3,634 test results from manufacturers, retailers, caterers and wholesalers. These results showed an additional six products containing horse DNA since the first set of industry tests was announced last week.

Over all, the agency said, “35 results, representing 13 products, contained horse DNA at or above the 1 percent threshold. These products have already been named and withdrawn from sale.”

While the horse meat crisis has revolved around issues of fraud and mislabeling, there are worries that a powerful equine painkiller, phenylbutazone, or bute, may have entered the food chain.

Eight horses slaughtered for food in Britain tested positive for the drug, according to reports this month. Six of those carcasses had already been exported to France for human consumption.

But the Food Standards Agency said Friday that tests on samples containing horse DNA so far had not found traces of phenylbutazone.

“The overwhelming majority of results, over 99 percent, have come back negative for the presence of horse DNA above the threshold of 1 percent, which is reassuring for consumers,” said Catherine Brown, the agency’s chief executive. She said the agency’s work “is far from done,” with other testing being carried out by the local authorities on behalf of the agency already “well under way.”

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