PRIME Minister David Cameron has described the discovery of horse meat traces in food produced in North Yorkshire and Ireland as “completely unacceptable” and called for an urgent inquiry.

The storm over traces of horse meat found in burgers produced at Dalepak in Leeming Bar and two Irish food processors continued today (Wednesday, January 16).

Horse and pig DNA had been discovered in a selection of burgers after being tested by Irish food safety watchdogs earlier in the week.

Loading article content

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSA) found traces of horse DNA in ten burgers. Most were at low levels but one – Tesco Everyday Value Beef Burgers - registered horse DNA of 29 per cent relative to beef content. More than two-thirds of the beef ready-meals tested had traces of pig DNA.

They were found in food produced in two plants in Ireland, Liffey Meats and Silvercrest Foods, as well as Dalepak near Northallerton.

The burgers were all available to buy at Tesco, Lidl, Aldi, Iceland and Dunnes Stores at the time. In Westminster, the Prime Minister said he had asked the Food Standards Agency to conduct an urgent investigation.

He said: “It is a very important issue and it is an extremely serious issue. “People in our country would have been very concerned to read this morning that when they thought they were buying beefburgers they were buying something that had horse meat.

“It is extremely disturbing news. I have asked the Food Standards Agency to conduct an urgent investigation into this.

“They have made clear there is no risk to public safety because there is no food safety risk but this is a completely unacceptable state of affairs.”

Dalepak employs about 140 people at its factory near Northallerton and is owned by the ABP Food group.

The ABP Food Group has pledged to “take the industry lead” in DNA testing of products.

It says the meat products industry does not carry out routine DNA testing of food, but the group would now be implementing DNA analysis.

A statement from the group read: “We are shocked by the result of these tests, and are currently at a loss to explain why one test showed 29 per cent equine DNA.

“Current investigations are centred on beef products which originated from two suppliers, and we have today dispatched auditors to their sites to conduct unannounced spot checks.”

A spokesman for Dalepak said the horse and pork content amounted to less than 0.1 per cent of meat content in its frozen beef burgers. All the retailers have pledged to remove all the implicated batches from their shelves.

This afternoon the Food Standards Agency (FSA) held a meeting with representatives from the food industry to try to uncover the extent of the problem and to investigate the supply chain.

There is a suggestion the horse meat may have been imported from Spain or Holland.