'Criminal trade' may be behind horsemeat scandal, says MP
Mary Creagh claims criminal activity may be to blame for deepening food contamination crisis
THE discovery of beef lasagne ready meals containing up to 100 per cent horsemeat suggests the deepening food contamination scandal is "no longer just a food safety issue, but possibly a criminal trade", the shadow environment minister Mary Creagh has said.
Findus has withdrawn all its beef lasagne ready meals from supermarkets because they had tested positive for "high levels of horsemeat". Tests of 18 of the Findus ready meals revealed that 11 contained levels of horsemeat ranging from "60 per cent to 100 per cent".
Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme Creagh criticised the government's response to the crisis, pointing out that authorities in Ireland – one of several European countries to be affected – had "called in police and fraud experts" to investigate.
The Guardian says Findus is the latest company to be drawn into the deepening food contamination scandal that has affected firms in France, Poland and Ireland as well as the UK. Earlier this week the supermarket chains Tesco and Aldi withdrew frozen spaghetti bolognese and beef lasagne products because they were made by Comigel, the French manufacturer that supplied Findus.
Catherine Brown, the chief executive of the Food Standards Agency, described the latest incident as "appalling" and said it seemed likely to have happened "through deliberate fraud or criminal activity rather than mistaken contamination".
The Independent says the FSA is testing the products containing horsemeat for traces of an equine drug called phenylbutazone, or 'bute', which is harmful to humans. The authority has also ordered all food manufacturers to test their processed beef products in the wake of the Findus decision to withdraw its lasagne meals.
But MP Anne McIntosh, chair of the environment, food and rural affairs select committee, said she was not convinced the FSA was doing enough to get to the bottom of the issue. Speaking on the Today programme she asked: "What is the FSA for, what is it doing?" McIntosh said the authority had "not found one case of contamination" because it relied on local authorities, manufacturers and retailers to carry out testing.
McIntosh said if she had a beef ready meal in her freezer she wouldn't eat it and urged shoppers to "buy local", because so far the contaminated meat appears to have come from Europe not the UK.
The FSA's director of operations Andrew Rhodes insisted it tested "thousands" of products each year. He conceded that the cause of the most recent scandal was either "gross negligence" or "criminal activity", but denied that the crisis was evidence that his agency's "controls" are not working. ·