WIKIMEDIA, LENIN AND MCCARTHYUS-based fast-food company Taco Bell last week (March 2) withdrew its beef products from sale in the United Kingdom and Spain after they were found to contain as much as 10 percent horse DNA, reported The Guardian. The adulterated beef tacos join a growing list of European food outlets and suppliers offering products labeled as beef that contain more than 1 percent horse DNA, assumed to be from horse meat.

In January, horse meat was found in frozen beef burgers sold by UK supermarket chains. Since then, contaminated meat has been discovered in products sold by several more supermarkets and Burger King, as well as in food items produced by companies Nestle and Findus. Last week, Ikea withdrew a batch of meatballs from European stores for the same reason. So far, the presence of horse DNA in food items sold as beef is limited to...

Taco Bell’s equine-tainted beef was discovered in the latest round of testing demanded by the UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA), which asked food companies to test beef-based products for the presence of horsemeat, with anything above that 1 percent considered to be a sign of adulteration. Independent laboratories have now sent test results from almost 5,500 products sold in the UK to the FSA, and more than 99 percent show horse DNA levels below 1 percent. But in the latest round of results published by the FSA, Taco Bell, as well as two products sold by Bird’s Eye and another by catering supplier Brakes, were found to contain horse meat. The FSA has now found a total of 19 UK-sold beef products contaminated with horse meat. 

The horse meat is likely added to ground beef by suppliers to make more money, as horse meat is much cheaper in most countries. The scandal has also thrown a spotlight on the complexity and murkiness of the European food industry’s supply chains.

Interested in reading more?

The Scientist ARCHIVES

Become a Member of

Receive full access to more than 35 years of archives, as well as TS Digest, digital editions of The Scientist, feature stories, and much more!
Already a member?