Frozen-food retailer Iceland Foods has withdrawn a diced beef steak product following confirmation it tested positive for more than 1 per cent horse meat.
A statement from the retailer yesterday said the batch was manufactured nearly a year ago and Iceland had not used the UK supplier since last November. It said the product was no longer on sale in any Iceland store in Ireland or abroad.
“There is not believed to be any food-safety risk associated with the consumption of this product, but any customer who still has this product with the best-before date of 30.05.2013 in their freezer is welcome to return it to their nearest Iceland store for a full refund,” the statement said.
There are eight Iceland stores in the State, operating under franchise from Iceland UK. Five are in Dublin and the remainder are in Ashbourne, Carlow and Clonmel.
The horse meat content was discovered during tests carried out by the veterinary authorities in the Czech Republic, where Iceland has one store. Iceland said product from its current supplier had been tested along with other Iceland products such as minced and diced beef, sausages, burgers, ready meals, corned beef and pizzas. Horse meat had not been found in these products. “More than 360 tests have so far been undertaken as part of this ongoing programme to guarantee that all Iceland beef products meet the correct specification,” the company said.
The news comes as the European Commission prepares to publish the results today of the EU-wide testing regime to detect horse meat in beef products. The regime was announced by the commission in February when it requested member states to take some 2,250 samples of beef products and test them for the presence of horse meat.
It also involved testing horse meat for possible residues of bute, a veterinary product administered to horses. Bute is banned from the food chain because it can pose a health risk if taken in large doses.
Yesterday the European Food Safety Authority and the European Medicines Agency published their joint assessment of the dangers posed by bute and said it should continue to be banned from the food chain.
They said it was not possible to set safe levels for bute in food products of animal origin "and therefore its use in the food chain should remain prohibited".
Meanwhile, the British government has announced a wide-ranging review into the horse meat scandal to restore consumer confidence. It will look at the responsibilities of food businesses and practices throughout the chain including auditing, testing, safety, authenticity, health issues and fraud.