Controversy over meat content in popular family meals: what parents need to know

As supermarkets continue to remove big name brands and processed beef meals, the FSA confirms there’s no food safety issue

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Millions of meals said to contain processed beef have been removed from supermarkets after it was revealed some products contained between 60-100% horsemeat.

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Shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh told the BBC: “British consumers have got to feel confident that the meat that they’re buying to feed themselves and their families is properly labelled, legal and safe for them to eat.”

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has stated that “there’s no food safety issue”, centering on the fact that “it seemed likely to have happened through deliberate fraud or other criminal activity, rather than mistaken contamination.”

Mary added, “It’s disappointing that supermarkets who have very strict specification regulations, and audit their processing factories two, three, four times a year have been hoodwinked by these criminals who have fraudulently put this meat into the food chain.”

Mary also shared her concerns over the possible presence of the veterinary medicine phenylbutazone, which is routinely used on horses and is banned from the human food chain. The FSA explains of their website, “Foods are checked for veterinary medicine residues to see that they are within legal limits and that consumer intakes are safe. Some veterinary medicines are banned within the European Union and foods are also tested for the presence of such residues.” This could presumably link to medicines banned for use on the animal as well as banned in terms of entering the human food chain.

As news emerges that all retail, wholesale and catering businesses selling or using products claiming to be beef must be checked, with the results of all screening samples to be reported by 11th March 2013 and any confirmatory tests by 8th April 2013, we wanted to know what tests are usually done to confirm that 100% beef is 100% beef. A Department For Environment, Food and Rural Affairs spokesperson told MadeForMums:

“It is not illegal to sell horsemeat in this country, there’s just not much taste for it, but food must be labelled correctly. If food has horsemeat in it, this must be listed on the packaging. There are currently investigations to look into where in the supplier chain the problem has arisen, but it is the legal responsibility of retailers to check what a product says is in it, is in it and that other ingredients aren’t missing from the list. Checks on final stage products are carried out by local authorities, who also carry out checks on hygiene standards. Spot checks don’t check all foods, rather a percentage of, and are largely intelligence led.”

Which foods to return

Food regulators are keen not to worry people, but general advice is that you should return products to the supermarket if you are concerned. Notably French supplier Comigel has advised Findus and Aldi to withdraw:

  • Findus Beef Lasagne
  • Aldi’s Today’s Special Frozen Beef Lasagne
  • Aldi’s Today’s Special Frozen Spaghetti Bolognese

Tesco also decided to withdraw Everyday Value Spaghetti Bolognese, although there was no evidence of contamination. Sainsbury’s, Asda and the Co-op also removed frozen beef goods as a precaution. As many as 10 million burgers have also been taken off of the shelves by Tesco, Lidl, Aldi, Iceland and Dunnes Stores.

Fast food chain Burger King switched suppliers on the 23rd of January and by the 31st revealed that some of its burgers were contaminated by horsemeat.

If your family enjoys regularly eating some of the meals mentioned above, why not opt for home cooked versions instead?

Reader Samantha Fenn talks us through her homemade lasagne recipe and we’ve got an easy peasy meatball recipe to try at home, too. If your family feel like giving meat the skip, we’ve got 10 top vegetarian baby recipes, too.

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For all the latest information and guidelines visit the FSA website.

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