A MEAT processing plant in North Yorkshire is at the centre of a food safety probe after beefburgers supplied to leading supermarkets were found to contain horsemeat.
Products from the Dalepak Hambleton plant in Northallerton and two other facilities in Ireland were investigated by a food safety watchdog. The burgers were on sale at Tesco, Lidl, Aldi, Iceland and Dunnes Stores, but it is not known which plant supplied the contaminated meat.
Last night, after the results of the study, by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) were published, Tesco withdrew the products from sale, calling the incidents “extremely serious”.
The investigation into the authenticity of a number of beefburger, beef meal and salami products on sale in Ireland, found a number tested positive for horse DNA, something it said was “not in our culture to eat”. In addition, some products were also found to contain pig DNA.
Products from the Dalepak plant and from two plants in Ireland, Liffey Meats and Silvercrest Foods, were tested and horse DNA was found.
Of 27 products analysed, ten were found to contain horse DNA and 23 pig DNA.
Although most samples contained only low amounts of contamination, in one Tesco Everyday Value product, horsemeat accounted for about 29 per cent of the meat content relative to beef.
The FSAI said there was no risk to health, but its chief executive, Professor Alan Reilly, said: “While 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.
“In Ireland, it is not in our culture to eat horsemeat and, therefore, we do not expect to find it in a burger.”
While he did not single out any one particular supplier, Tesco spokesman Tim Smith said: “The safety and quality of our food is of the highest importance to Tesco. We will not tolerate any compromise in the quality of the food we sell.
“The presence of illegal meat in our products is extremely serious. Our customers have the right to expect that food they buy is produced to the highest standards.
“The relevant authorities have said that these findings pose no risk to public health.
"We understand that many of our customers will be concerned by this news, and we apologise sincerely for any distress.”
No one was available for comment at Dalepak’s plant in Leeming Bar.
People phoning the firm who are put on hold hear a recorded message about its “delicious premium, standard and economy burgers... each one produced with care and for quality assurance”.