In the United States, finding out that much of the meat served in school lunches contains “pink slime” (second-grade meat treated with ammonia) was a pretty shocking discovery. In the UK, a watchdog organization has discovered the presence of horsemeat and pig parts in ground beef that is sold to supermarkets. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is poised to conduct an investigation into all beef products sold within the UK after learning of the scandal from Ireland’s Food Safety Authority. On Wednesday, the FSA held emergency meetings with supermarket groups to see the extent to which the supply chain had been compromised.

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Among some of the more disturbing finds was the discovery that supermarket chain Tesco’s ground beef contained nearly 29% horsemeat. The company soon cleared its shelves of all beef products and sent full-page apologies to customers and media outlets. Asda and Co-op also purged their stores of beef that originated at the same Irish processing plant that supplied Tesco with the mixed burgers. Inspections of other suppliers are being made into those whose meat has been found to contain pig or horse DNA.

David Heath, the food and environment minister, believes the contamination to be the result of criminal activity. Still, he insisted that the government’s standards were still generally very high, and that the meat likely came from a third country outside of the UK to be processed in Ireland.

“Because something has been discovered in Ireland, which is serious, which may lead to criminal proceedings, does not undermine the very serious efforts which are taken by retailers, by processors and by producers in this country to ensure traceability and ensure standards of food that are available to consumers,” Heath told the Labour party’s environment spokeswoman, Mary Creagh. For her part, Creagh asserted that ministers should strongly consider urging for DNA testing on meat products, even at additional cost, actions that the UK’s FSA may introduce in the future.

At the moment, no one has been prosecuted for the meat misconduct; Heath does not rule out the possibility of court action for those involved in the UK or Republic of Ireland, and probes are also looking into whether the meat could have possibly been picked up by UK fast food restaurants.

Via The Guardian

Images Via Wikicommons users Lobo and Rainer Zenz