DEFRA secretary Owen Paterson has told shoppers to “buy British” in the wake of further revelations about horsemeat in burgers and processed meals.
Mr Paterson’s comments came during a debate in the House of Commons on Monday 11 January on developments following the discovery of horsemeat in processed beef products.
The minister told MPs the ultimate source of the contamination was still being investigated and that the Food Standards Agency had asked all producers and retailers to test all the processed beef products for the presence of horsemeat. The first results are expected on Friday (15 February).
However, consumers should have faith in locally-produced food, as the UK has “splendid cattle, rigorous traceability systems, strictly run abattoirs and a splendid finished product,” he said.
“I’m entirely happy to recommend to all consumers in this country that they buy good British products in which they can have faith.
“We have extraordinarily rigorous processes for traceability and production systems, so I have total confidence in British products and strongly recommend them to the British consumer.”
Mr Paterson ruled out an EU import ban on meat products, because the EU commissioner for health had made it clear that was only possible if human safety was at risk.
Latest FSA advice is that despite the contamination there is no evidence to suggest recalled products represent a food safety risk.
“The chief medical officer’s advice is that even if bute is found to be present at low levels, there is a very low risk that it would cause harm to human health,” said Mr Paterson.
The debate came after Tesco was forced to admit that it had found horsemeat in its frozen Everyday Value Spaghetti Bolognese, which it withdrew from sale last week.
Tests have shown that in some instances the product contained 60% horsemeat DNA, although no traces of bute had been found.
The government has confirmed that a second horsemeat summit meeting has been scheduled for 7.30pm on Tuesday (12 February).
The meeting will include representatives from the IGD, Food Standards Agency and will be chaired by Mr Paterson.
On Wednesday (13 February), Mr Paterson will attend a meeting in Brussels to meet the EU health commissioner Tonio Borg, along with his counterparts from France, Ireland and Romania.