LONDON — The European Union agreed Friday to begin random DNA checks on meat products in a bid to put a lid on a spreading scandal over horsemeat, while British authorities announced traces of horse had been found in school meals, restaurant dishes and hospital food, as well as supermarket products.
A rundown on a scandal:
In mid-January, Ireland's food safety watchdog announced that it had discovered traces of horse DNA in burger products sold by major British and Irish supermarkets.
The mislabeled products came from Irish processor Silvercrest Foods, which withdrew 10 million burgers from store shelves.
Irish officials first blamed an imported powdered beef-protein additive used to pad out cheap burgers, then frozen blocks of slaughterhouse leftovers imported from Poland – an indication of the complexity of the food-supply chain that was about to be revealed to an alarmed European public.
Traces of horsemeat have turned up across Europe in frozen supermarket meals such as burgers and lasagna, as well as in fresh beef pasta sauce, on restaurant menus, in school lunches and in hospital meals.
Millions of products were pulled from store shelves in Britain, Ireland, France, Spain, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway after the scandal broke, and supermarkets and food suppliers were told to test processed beef products for horse DNA.
On Friday, several British supermarket chains – including Morrisons and Tesco – said their tests had been negative so far. But Britain's Food Standards Agency said 29 of 2,501 products tested contained at least 1 percent horse DNA. All were burgers, lasagna and meat sauces sold by supermarkets and catering firms.
Horsemeat itself is not harmful, and is eaten in several European countries, including France, Germany and Italy. In English-speaking countries including Britain and Ireland eating horses is widely considered taboo.