Beefburgers containing horsemeat could have been produced from “diseased or injured animals”, say environmental health experts.

Scotland’s chief environmental health officers say there is “no certainty” that horsemeat burgers are safe to eat, because they have not passed official food inspections.

The warning comes despite assurances by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) that the burgers posed no food safety risk.

John Sleith, chairman of the Society of Chief Officers of Environmental Health (SOCOEHS), said: “There is no information on how the horsemeat came to be in the burgers and so there is no way of telling whether the meat is safe to eat – it could be from diseased or injured animals, for example. “If it hasn’t come through the official inspection system, then there is no confidence that it is completely harmless. Investigations are being carried out in the Irish Republic on exactly how these burgers were made.”

The horseburger scandal is just one example of “food fraud”, which is becoming an increasing problem, he warned.

“This episode is indicative of a growing trend we are finding, where there is substitution of meat products. Food fraud is big business and food inspectors have to be alert to it,” he said.

“Recently, for example, there have been cases of cheap beef being sold as more expensive lamb in curries.

“It is important that the public are well informed about food ingredients and that they can have confidence in what is being produced.”

Mr Sleith urged the public, or indeed food workers, to contact their local environmental health office if they suspect anything unusual in their food of drink products.

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