In what is one more piece of evidence that labeling can be misleading, a random study conducted by the Food Safety of Ireland (FSAI) in various local supermarkets has established that many beef products contain a large quantity of horsemeat – and an even larger quantity of pork.In a statement on the official website, the FSAI notes that neither ingredient is dangerous to human health but, nonetheless, its discovery in beef products should raise serious concerns.
Of the most pressing is the “traceability of meat ingredients and products entering the food chain.”
The study was conducted on beef burgers, beef meal and salami available in supermarkets across Ireland, the FSAI says.
“A total of 27 beef burger products were analyzed with 10 of the 27 products (37%) testing positive for horse DNA and 23 (85%) testing positive for pig DNA. In addition, 31 beef meal products (cottage pie, beef curry pie, lasagne, etc.) were analyzed of which 21 were positive for pig DNA and all were negative for horse DNA,” the FSAI writes.
“All 19 salami products analyzed tested negative for horse DNA. Traces of horse DNA were also detected in batches of raw ingredients, including some imported from The Netherlands and Spain,” the FSAI further says.
The supermarket chains targeted by the random studies are also the country’s largest: Tesco, Lidl, Dunnes Stores, Iceland and Aldi.
In the same statement, the FSAI notes that the finding may hint at a deliberate attempt to mislead customers into buying something they would not normally buy.
“Whilst, there is a plausible explanation for the presence of pig DNA in these products due to the fact that meat from different animals is processed in the same meat plants, there is no clear explanation at this time for the presence of horse DNA in products emanating from meat plants that do not use horsemeat in their production process,” Prof. Alan Reilly, chief executive, FSAI, says.
“In Ireland, it is not in our culture to eat horsemeat and therefore, we do not expect to find it in a burger,” Reilly adds.
As of now, the retail outlets named above are yet to address the latest controversy.
[Update, January 16, 2013, later]: Tesco has pulled all its fresh and frozen burgers from outlets in Britain and Ireland, The Guardian informs.