Birds Eye has withdrawn three beef ready meals from supermarkets in the UK and Ireland as a precaution after horse DNA was found in a product in Belgium.

Birds Eye said its chili con carne had tested positive for 2% horse DNA.

The news comes as the Food Standards Agency prepares to announce results of its latest tests into the contamination of processed beef products.

The tests – on a range of ready meals – are likely to indicate whether the horsemeat scandal has been contained.

Birds Eye said that, although the chili meal was sold only in Belgium, it was withdrawing all other products made by the supplier – Belgian group Frigilunch.

The company said as a precautionary measure in the UK and Ireland it would clear its Traditional Spaghetti Bolognese 340g, Shepherd’s Pie 400g and Beef Lasagne 400g from the supermarkets. It will also clear the chili from shelves in Belgium.

Birds Eye said: “Whilst this is not a food safety issue, it is clearly unacceptable.”

Meanwhile, seven Welsh councils have said they received burgers made by a firm where horse DNA was found.

Gelatine and beef dripping

Last month’s discovery of horsemeat in some processed beef products sold by a number of UK supermarkets sparked widespread investigations.

Tesco, Lidl, Iceland and Aldi were caught up in the scandal.

Across Europe a growing number of companies, including Findus and Nestle, have recalled beef ready meals after tests found they contained horse DNA.

The Food Standards Agency asked UK food retailers to test the beef in thousands of their products after the crisis emerged.

In the first results, released on 15 February, 29 out of 2,501 tests were positive – that is, they contained at least 1% horsemeat. The positive results were all in products that had previously been identified and withdrawn.

The first phase of the investigation saw 224 samples of raw minced beef products – including burgers, minced beef, beef sausage or meatballs – checked for horse and pig DNA.

The second set of tests – the results of which are those due to be released – were carried out on 140 samples of beef-based ready meals. The tests for horse or pig DNA covered a range of frozen, chilled or canned products that included lasagne, chilli con carne, cottage pie, ravioli, cannelloni and spaghetti bolognese.

Chris Mallon, of the National Beef Association, said more people had rejected processed meat and switched to buying from a local butcher since the horsemeat scandal broke.

“If you want a high quality beef product it will have to cost more”

Chris MallonNational Beef Association

He said the price of burgers had risen by 14%, which suggested manufacturers were now using better quality ingredients: “If you want a high quality beef product it will have to cost more.”

On Monday the FSA is to expand the tests to look at foodstuffs labelled as containing beef as a major ingredient. That could include products such as minced meat, prepared meat such as seasoned kebabs, gelatine, beef dripping, stock cubes and steak.

There are also continuing criminal investigations in the UK, the Irish Republic and continental Europe.

The FSA has previously said the matter is one of fraud rather than a health issue.

Further findings

On Thursday the Burger Manufacturing Company (BMC), at Llanelwedd, Builth Wells, withdrew suspect products after three samples tested positive for horsemeat.

BMC said its meat came from Farmbox Meats in Ceredigion, which is already under police investigation.

In a separate development, traces of horse DNA were found in a frozen burger at a school kitchen in North Lanarkshire.

Procurement agency Scotland Excel later advised Scottish councils to “place a hold on the use of all frozen beefburger products”.

Meanwhile, in Northern Ireland, burgers containing horsemeat were discovered at three agricultural campuses.

BBC News