Taco Bell in U.K. Discovers Horse Meat in Ground Beef Products

Yum! Brands Inc. (YUM)’s Taco Bell Mexican-food chain is the latest company to have found horse meat in its beef products, the U.K. Food Standards Agency said.

Taco Bell withdrew ground beef from its three U.K. restaurants, the company said in a statement on its website. The adulteration was discovered in “some batches of ground beef supplied to us from one supplier in Europe,” according to the statement. Taco Bell has restaurants at West Thurrock and Basildon, east of London, and at a food court in Manchester, England, according to its website.

In a third batch of test results from the food industry, four more products have been found to contain horse DNA at or above the 1 percent threshold, the FSA said today. Birds Eye withdrew spaghetti bolognese and beef lasagne after positive tests for equine matter.

The scandal that started in Ireland in mid-January has spread around the world. The companies affected include Ikea, the largest furniture retailer, which removed its signature Swedish meatballs from its restaurants. The European Union has ordered testing across the region, while South Africa, spurred by European discoveries, is investigating how unlabeled donkey, goat and water buffalo got into supermarket products.

Tesco Tests

“Over 99 percent of tests continue to show no horse DNA at or above the level of 1 percent,” the FSA said in today’s statement. So far, the FSA has received 5,430 test results. On Feb. 8, the FSA ordered supermarkets and food makers to test all their beef products.

The U.K.’s largest supermarkets have now examined all their processed minced-beef products and have found no new positive results for horse DNA in the past week, the British Retail consortium said today.

Tesco Plc (TSCO), the U.K.’s biggest grocer, has pledged to source more meat domestically and carry out DNA tests on all of its meat. This will cost the company about 2 million pounds ($3 million) a year, it said.

Sales of frozen beef burgers in the U.K. dropped by 43 percent in the four weeks ended Feb. 17, while sales of frozen ready meals declined by 13 percent, according to researcher Kantar Worldpanel.

Yum! Brands Inc. also owns Pizza Hut and KFC.

To contact the reporter on this story: Gabi Thesing in London at gthesing@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Celeste Perri at cperri@bloomberg.net

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