A “wide-ranging” strategic review of the horsemeat scandal is to be launched by the government.

Farm minister David Heath made the announcement in a written statement on the fiasco which saw some beef products contaminated with horsemeat.

Thousands of beef products have been withdrawn from supermarket shelves over the past three months after they were found to contain horsemeat.

The review will look at the incident and its implications for the food chain and the government’s regulatory framework, he said.

“This will be wide-ranging, to restore and maintain consumer confidence in the food chain and consider the responsibilities of food businesses, and practice throughout the wider food chain.”

The review will include audit, testing, food authenticity, food safety and health issues.

“It will advise us of vulnerabilities within the food chain and its regulatory framework that might be exploited for other fraudulent activity,” said Mr Heath.

The review will also consider any wider implications emanating from findings following a separate review by the Food Standards Agency.

“I reiterate that food fraud is completely unacceptable,” said Mr Heath.

“Consumers must have confidence in the food they buy and have every right to expect that food is correctly described.”
David Heath, farm minister

He added: “Consumers must have confidence in the food they buy and have every right to expect that food is correctly described.”

Mr Heath said UK investigations on this issue were continuing with the City of London Police acting as the coordinating police authority.

“It is also right that any weaknesses in our food system and the controls it is subject to are identified and dealt with,” he said.

The food industry has agreed to continue ongoing tests for horse DNA in processed beef products, with identification of individual products testing positive above the 1% reporting limit.

Last week, Asda reported a positive test for the presence of very low levels of bute in its 340g tins of “Smart Price” corned beef.

This product was tested by Asda as part of the industry testing programme and found to be positive for horse DNA above 1% and was withdrawn from Asda’s shelves on 8 March 2013.

Also last week, the Netherlands recalled 50,000t of meat sold as beef across Europe that may contain horsemeat.

Some 370 different companies around Europe and 132 more in the Netherlands were affected by the recall because they bought meat from a Dutch trading company.

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