The question of what exactly goes on behind the closed doors of the meat industry is being raised as Tesco fresh and frozen burgers were recalled due to analyses which showed that approximately 29 percent of the meat in their Everyday Value Beef Burgers was actually horse meat.
An in-depth inquiry by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland led to the disturbing realization that 37 percent of Tesco's beef burger products contained horse meat and pig DNA, and 21 other foods were compromised of pig DNA.
Some of the raw ingredients of these goods also displayed traces of horse DNA. In total, more than a third of the products tested were positive for horse DNA, while eight-five percent contained pig DNA.
To make matters worse, the Food Standards Agency found that while Ireland was the main victim of this controversy, mainland Britain is also greatly affected.
The products containing the horse DNA were produced in three plants, Liffey Meats, Silvercrest Foods (both in Ireland), and Dalepak Hambleton in North Yorkshire, UK. The beef burgers were then sold in Tesco, Dunnes Stores, Lidl, Aldi, and Iceland.
The most concerning aspect of this finding is the horse meat, the chief executive of the FSAI, Professor Alan Reilly, explains: "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 plants. There is no clear explanation for the presence of horse DNA in products emanating from meat plants that do not use horse meat."
Tesco has taken this incident seriously, as Tin Smith, the group technical director of the company, assures: "The presence of illegal meat in our products is extremely serious. Our customers have the right to expect that the food they buy is produced to the highest standards."
The three processing plants of the products have also responded to the findings, with Liffey Meats attributing the traces of non-beef DNA to "imported ingredients," and issuing an official apology to their customers. Silvercrest also apologized for the incident and declared a "full-scale investigation" into the situation.
The one upside to this finding is that the level of horse DNA traces in nine of the ten beef samples were extremely low. The FSA has also declared that so far, the traces of horse DNA do not appear to be a food safety risk.
This new discovery is not only troubling for the Tesco company and its customers, but also for the meat industry as a whole. Investigators explained that this mysterious incident has led to questioning of "the traceability of meat ingredients and products entering the food chain." Time will tell if these calls for accountability within the meat industry will be answered.