Hidden horsemeat beefs up Spanish menus

More than four percent of the meat being flogged off as beef in Spain actually contains horse DNA, new government tests reveal.

Hidden horsemeat beefs up Spanish menus
The neighs have it: Spain's Agriculture Ministry says the country is on top of the horsemeat problem. Photo: Dave/Flickr

The tests were carried out in Murcia, Asturias, Castile and León, and Castile–La Mancha, Spain's Agriculture Minister told Spain's Congress on Monday.

They showed that more than four percent of the beef tested from those zones actually contained DNA from horses, reported El Periódico on Tuesday. 

Speaking in congress, Agriculture Minister Miguel Arias Cañete said his ministry and the Ministry of Health had carried out a total of 189 tests to obtain the result.

The tests come after the European Commission previously asked countries to check levels of horsemeat found in products that were labelled as being other types of meat. 

Among the 116 tests done by the Agriculture Ministry, six came up positive for meat from horses.

But Cañete hailed what he considered a low result and said this was a sign detection mechanisms were working well.

He said Spain had good testing mechanisms and that any problems in the food chain would quickly be resolved.

The Agriculture Minister also pointed out that no phenylbutazone had been found in any of the samples tested.

The European Commission had also asked Spain to check for traces of the pain reliever for animals which is banned in all products for human consumption.

The Spanish government is now also looking at revising the penalties in its food law to see if these are strict enough.

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Nestlé horsemeat taken off Spanish shelves

Swiss food giant Nestlé has become the latest retailer hit by Europe's horsemeat scandal, announcing it is removing pasta meals from supermarket shelves in Italy and Spain due to contamination.

Nestlé horsemeat taken off Spanish shelves
Test reveal more than one percent horse DNA in two products. Photo: Jeff Pachoud/AFP

Swiss food giant Nestlé has become the latest retailer hit by Europe's horsemeat scandal, announcing it is removing pasta meals from supermarket shelves in Italy and Spain due to contamination.

"Our tests have found traces of horse DNA in two products," the world's biggest food company said in its statement Monday.

"The mislabeling of products means they fail to meet the very high standards consumers expect from us," it added.

Therefore the company is "voluntarily removing" two chilled pasta products, Buitoni Beef Ravioli and Beef Tortellini from sale in Italy and Spain immediately.

The tainted products breached the one percent threshold the British Food Safety Agency uses to indicate likely adulteration or gross negligence, Nestlé said.

A food behemoth frozen meat product for catering businesses, produced in France, will also be withdrawn from sale. 

Nestlé apologized to consumers while assuring that "actions being taken to deal with this issue will result in higher standards and enhanced traceability."

Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

Concerns about horsemeat first emerged in mid-January when Irish authorities found traces of horse in beefburgers made by firms in Ireland and Britain and sold in supermarket chains including Tesco and Aldi.

The scandal then intensified when French firm Comigel alerted Findus this month to the presence of horsemeat in the meals it had made for the food giant and which were on sale in Britain.

Since then, supermarket chains have removed millions of "beef" products as tests are carried out to detect horsemeat, which is eaten in many European countries but is considered taboo in Britain.

Horsemeat in "beef" ready-to-eat meals had already been confirmed in products found in Britain, Ireland, France, Austria, Finland, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany and Sweden.

Most of the mislabelled products were made by Comigel.

With Italy and Spain now also tainted by the horsemeat scandal it appears that most of the continent has been affected.