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Government must act to restore confidence in beef and protect farmers

January 17, 2013 12:57 PM

TF ruralCumbrian MP Tim Farron has called on the government to act quickly to reassure consumers after beef burgers from major supermarkets were found to contain horse meat.

Four major supermarket chains operating in Britain - Aldi, Iceland, Lidl and Tesco - are withdrawing a number of beef products after horse DNA was found in burgers sold by them in the UK and Ireland.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), who made the discovery, said the burgers were produced by two meat processing plants in Ireland, Liffey Meats and Silvercrest Foods, and by the Dalepak Hambleton plant in the UK.

Responsibility for food testing used to be overseen by the Food Standards Agency. However in 2010 responsibilities for food labelling and nutrition were transferred to the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). The FSA retained its responsibilities for ensuring food is safe, for example by testing food for bacteria or chemical contamination.

Defra have passed responsibility for routine "authenticity" testing on to trading standards officers. But because trading standards officers are employed by local authorities, there is now no national inspection system for ensuring foods contain what is described on the label. Tim has contacted Cumbria County Council to ask how many inspections they have made the last 3 years.

Tim said: "This case is awful and could really affect farmers. If confidence in beef dips it will be the farmers who feel the brunt as the costs of meat collapses and they are squeezed by supermarkets. I'm calling on the Government to act quickly and robustly to give consumers confidence."