Consumers May Face More Bad Meat News, Paterson Says

U.K. Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said there “may well be more bad news” for U.K. consumers as products are tested following reports by some supermarkets that horse meat was found in packaged meals meant to contain beef.

Paterson said he hoped further testing being conducted by the Food Standards Agency would bring “meaningful results” by Feb. 15. He spoke today after talks in London with the agency, suppliers and retailers.

The FSA has given foodmakers a week to test all their beef products after a range of lasagnas produced by Findus Group Ltd. was found to contain more than 60 percent horse meat. Supermarkets including Tesco Plc, Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s Asda and Aldi have removed some ranges of frozen beef burgers from their shelves in the past month as concern has escalated over tainted meat.

“The government has got to get a grip on this situation,” Ed Miliband, leader of the U.K.’s opposition Labour Party, said in a statement. “It’s got to get the government-run testing done as quickly as possible so we can provide reassurance to people.”

Retailers are ultimately responsible for the contents of the products they sell, Paterson said in an interview with Sky News today. “We hope we will get to the bottom of this problem as rapidly as possible and find how extensive it is.”

French Probe

Aldi has recalled Today’s Special Frozen Beef Lasagne and Today’s Special Frozen Spaghetti Bolognese after finding horse meat in some samples, the FSA said on its website today.

Findus apologized to consumers in a statement on its website and in U.K. newspapers. The company said that while horse meat was present in some of its lasagna products it didn’t believe it posed a health risk to consumers. Findus said it withdrew the beef lasagna on Feb. 4 while it investigated the product and that tests confirmed the presence of horse meat two days later.

French Consumer Minister Benoit Hamon said he ordered an inquiry into the use of horse meat in Findus products and that the government is ready to press charges that could lead to imprisonment in the case.

The supplier of a Luxembourg factory was Spanghero SAS, which bought frozen meat from a Cypriot trader, who had sub-contracted the order to a trader in the Netherlands, Hamon said in an e-mailed statement today. The Dutch trader bought the meat from Romania.

The FSA said Feb. 8 that it had ordered all food businesses to test their processed beef products and is conducting its own survey of beef products, including those supplied to schools and hospitals.