"Tens of thousands of firms could be serving horsemeat burgers," warn experts

Tens of thousands of pubs, restaurants and takeaway joints could be serving burgers contaminated with horsemeat, as one of the biggest wholesale suppliers in the country has removed several beefburger brands from sale.

Cash and carry firm Makro, wholesaler to more than a million small firms and 130,000 caterers, has pulled 16 beefburger brands as a “precautionary measure”.

Freezers lay empty as Sainsburys withdrew burger brands on Wednesday night, with Aldi, Lidl and the Co-op doing likewise. Tesco and Iceland had pulled their beef burger brands on Tuesday.

Amid this scare, experts are warning tainted burgers could have been could have been on sale for years.

Tim Lang, a professor of food policy at City University, told TheTelegraph: “It could have been going on for years but we wouldn’t know about it because we have never conducted tests.

“For too long we have had light touch regulation. The Food Standards Agency has to be institutionalised into taking a more critical approach. They have to work on the assumption that things could go wrong.”

This scandal came to light after investigators from the Food Standards Agency in Ireland found some beefburgers contained traces of horse DNA, with beef dishes like lasagne and cottage pie featuring pig DNA. The meat came from Irish suppliers Liffey Meats and Silvercrest Foods as well as Yorkshire-based Dalepak, who all supply meat sold in British supermarkets. Dalepak says it never knowingly bought horsemeat but was investigating two of its European suppliers.

Prime Minister David Cameron told MPs on Wednesday that the development was “extremely disturbing” and “a completely unacceptable state of affairs”. MPs are now calling for prosecutions to take place in response to the scandal, with the government saying prosecutions should happen with “appropriate severity”.

Meanwhile, experts have pointed to the poor checks in Britain’s food supply.

The Food Standards Agency has said there is no health risk, but is testing meat products across Britain. A spokesman added: “Analysis is taking place right now, but we won’t have more information until it’s complete.”

Marks and Spencer, Waitrose and Morrisons are the only supermarket chains to emerge unaffected by the horsemeat scandal. However, Tesco has taken out advertisements in newspapers to apologise to customers, with chief executive Phil Clarke writing on his blog:

“If some customers are angry, so are we. We expect our suppliers to deliver to us as standard and to meet basic food traceability rules.

“We will continue to tell our customers everything we know and everything we are doing to stop anything like this happening again.”

 

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