Two European co-operatives have removed products from shelves after revelations they contained horsemeat.
Beef products were first discovered in Britain that contained high percentages of horse DNA, which prompted the Co-operative Group to terminate its supplier contract with the Irish meat processing plant at the centre of the horsemeat in burgers scandal.
In Switzerland, supermarket chain Coop found horsemeat in its own-brand lasagne, which were produced by French supplier Comigel. The growing revelations about the scandal has prompted governments to send out a European-wide alert.
In the UK, the Co-operative Group took the decision — which also affects all other British societies supplied through the Co-operative Retail Trading Group — after Silvercrest Foods in County Monaghan hit the headlines when it was revealed that beef burgers produced for Tesco and Aldi contained 29 per cent horse DNA.
Thousands of packets of Co-op brand frozen Quarter Pounder Burgers (four-pack) and Beef Burgers with Onion (eight-pack) were immediately cleared from freezer displays in Group and independent stores.
Subsequently, independent tests commissioned by the Group showed that some own-brand frozen beef burgers supplied by Silvercrest, a subsidiary of Ireland’s biggest meat processing company, ABP, also contained traces of horse DNA of up to 17.7 per cent.
The Group said that tests on two lines of frozen burgers which were withdrawn from sale on January 16th proved negative in 13 out of 17 samples, though in three samples small traces of horse DNA (less than one per cent) were found, while in one sample the percentage was 17.7 per cent.
A Group spokesman told the News: “We are taking this very seriously. Our decision to withdraw these products at the first opportunity and cease taking further products from this site has proved to be the correct course of action.
“While there are no safety issues involved, it is now apparent that some of the withdrawn products have not met the high standards we and our customers expect and we apologise for this.”
Added the spokesman: “We specify that all meat in our frozen burgers should be 100 per cent British, but we now strongly believe that some of the meat used to produce these burgers came from outside the UK and was not British in origin, and as a result we have taken the decision to de-list Silvercrest as a supplier with immediate effect.
“In addition, we are tightening our already stringent quality checks to ensure our products meet the high specifications that we set on behalf of our customers.”
In response to a question from the News, the Group has confirmed that it has no dealings or contracts with Freeza Meats of Newry, Northern Ireland, the processing company alleged to have supplied beef burgers containing 80 per cent horse DNA to Asda.