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Friday, February 8, 2013 - Page updated at 04:30 p.m.

U.K.: Lasagna products 60% horse meat

By CASSANDRA VINOGRAD
The Associated Press

LONDON — Some beef lasagna products recalled from British stores contained more than 60 percent horse meat, British food-safety authorities said Thursday. It was the latest revelation in a growing scandal surrounding the use of horse meat and the mislabeling of meat products in Europe.

Frozen-food company Findus recalled the beef lasagna meals this week after French supplier Comigel raised concerns that the products didn’t “conform to specification.” Britain’s Food Standards Agency said the lasagnas were tested as part of an investigation into mislabeled meat.

This month, millions of burgers have been taken off shop shelves as it emerged that beef products from three companies in Ireland and Britain contained horse DNA.

Eighteen beef lasagna products were tested by Findus, which found that 11 contained horse meat in the 60 to 100 percent range, the Food Standards Agency said. It would not say if any were 100 percent horse meat.

The agency said there’s no evidence of any risk, but it added that tests have been ordered on the lasagna to see if it contains the veterinary drug phenylbutazone. Animals treated with phenylbutazone are not allowed to enter the food chain because it may pose a risk to human health, the agency added.

People who had purchased the meals were advised to return the products to the shops they were bought from.

Eating horse meat is not generally a health risk, but the recent incidents have triggered disgust in Britain and Ireland, where horse meat is not traditionally eaten. They also have raised fears over food security and labeling in the supply chain.

The revelations have shaken Ireland in particular, because beef exports are a key industry. Irish government officials and an Irish meat company have blamed meat imported from Poland, but Polish authorities say they have found no evidence backing those claims.

Catherine Brown, chief executive of the Food Standards Agency, said that after its investigations into Findus, the agency is demanding more comprehensive meat testing from the food business “in order to demonstrate that the food it sells and serves is what it says it is on the label.”

Comigel this week had advised Findus — and the store chain Aldi — to remove frozen beef lasagna from store shelves. Supermarket chain Tesco also decided to withdraw its spaghetti Bolognese, which was produced by Comigel.

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