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Findus repeats apology

Published 09/02/2013

FROZEN food giant Findus has reiterated its apology over some of its beef lasagne products containing horse meat, after claims that the contamination could stretch back to last summer.

The company said it was "sorry that we have let people down" and confirmed it carried out a full product recall on Monday, two days before DNA tests confirmed that some of its products contained up to 100 per cent horse meat and it alerted the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

But it did not respond to claims by Labour MP Tom Watson that it sent a letter to retail-ers on Monday warning that a France-based supplier had told it there may be problems with raw materials delivered since August 1 last year.

A Findus spokesman said: "At Findus UK our first priority is our customers and providing quality products they can trust.

"But we know that many people have been concerned by the news this week that tests have shown that some of our Findus beef lasagne has been found to contain horse meat.

"We understand those concerns. We are sorry that we have let people down."

The Findus spokesman added that the firm "do not believe this is a food safety issue" but that anyone who had bought 320g, 360g or 500g Findus beef lasagne packs could call its customer care line on 0800 132 584 for advice and a refund.

Mr Watson, pictured, the MP for West Bromwich East, said he had obtained a letter from the company to retailers saying raw materials delivered to a French contractor since August 1 last year were "likely to be non-conform and consequently the labelling on finished products is incorrect".

The letter, which Mr Watson said was sent to retailers on Monday, added: "The supplier has asked us to withdraw the raw material batches."

Findus UK tested 18 of its beef lasagne products, made by French food supplier Comigel, and found that 11 contained in the range of 60 per cent to 100 per cent horse meat, the FSA said.

It was announced last night that British environment secretary Owen Paterson is to hold a horse meat summit with the FSA and retailers.

The Trading Standards Insti tute said the discovery of such high levels of horse meat suggested "deliberate fraudulent activity".

Britain's prime minister David Cameron said it was a "very shocking story, it's completely unacceptable" as Scotland Yard said officers had met with the FSA over the scandal.

The force added that there is no official police investigation at present.

Last night, supermarket Aldi said tests on its Today's Special frozen beef lasagne and Today's Special frozen spaghetti bolognese, which are produced by the same French supplier, Comigel, were found to contain between 30 per cent and 100 per cent horse meat.

Shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh said yesterday that she would not eat any processed food at present labelled as containing beef and urged ministers to give advice to consumers on whether they should do the same.

"We've had 10 million beef-burgers withdrawn," Ms Creagh told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"What tests have been conducted on them, if any?

"The big concern for me now is corner shops, schools, hospitals, prisons, public-sector caterers, people who may have these products sitting in their fridges and freezers.

"There's been absolutely no advice from government ministers about what people should do."

Asked if she would eat processed foods from her freezer which are labelled beef, she said: "I certainly wouldn't but I'm waiting for the government, the experts, the scientists, to tell us and issue proper, clear advice for consumers.

"It's simply not good enough for ministers to sit at their desks and pretend this isn't happening."

➣ Editorial ➣ P18 ■ FACTORY: A Findus factory in Longbenton, North Tyneside. Below, a Findus beef lasagne

PICTURES: Tom White/PA; Scott Heppell/AP