Dutch food officials have recalled 50,000t of meat which has been sold as beef, over fears that it may contain horsemeat.

The meat has already been supplied to 500 companies across Europe. It was being recalled because its exact source could not be verified, a spokeswoman for the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority said.

Inspections of two firms’ premises revealed that the origin of the supplied meat was unclear so it was not possible to confirm whether slaughterhouses had complied with procedures.

Some of the meat was exported to Germany, France and Spain by the companies, Wiljo Import en Export and Vleesgroothandel Willy Selten.

“It might contain traces of horsemeat, but we don’t know for certain at the moment if this is the case,” the Dutch food authority said in a statement on 10 April.

“The buyers have probably already processed the meat and sold it on,” the spokeswoman said. “We did not know where the meat had ended up, but it could have been used in frozen products,” she added.

The Dutch food authority warned foreign counterparts about the recall via a European rapid alert system. Companies involved are now obliged to inform their own customers.

The authority said there was no immediate suggestion of any danger to human health.

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