Nestlé Drawn into Horse Meat Crisis

EU - Multinational food processor, Nestlé, is the latest company to be hit by crisis of the horse meat contamination in beef products.
calendar icon 20 February 2013
clock icon 5 minute read

The company has withdrawn some of its beef pasta meals that were distributed in Italy, France and Spain becasue horse meat DNA has been discovered in the products.

A statement from the company said: "When reports first emerged in the United Kingdom about the fraudulent mislabeling of beef, we enhanced testing of our products and the raw materials we use across Europe. We are now suspending deliveries of all our finished products produced using beef supplied by a German firm, H.J. Schypke, a subcontractor of one of our suppliers, JBS Toledo N.V.

"Our tests have found traces of horse DNA in two products made from beef supplied by H.J. Schypke. The levels found are above the one percent threshold the UK's Food Safety Agency uses to indicate likely adulteration or gross negligence. We have informed the authorities accordingly.

"There is no food safety issue, but the mislabeling of products means they fail to meet the very high standards consumers expect from us.

"Therefore we are voluntarily removing two chilled pasta products, Buitoni Beef Ravioli and Beef Tortellini from sale in Italy and Spain immediately, and we will replace them with product confirmed by DNA testing to be made from 100% beef.

"Lasagnes à la Bolognaise Gourmandes, a frozen meat product for catering businesses by Nestlé Professional produced in France will also be withdrawn from sale and replaced with product made from 100 per cent beef.

"We are also enhancing our existing comprehensive quality assurance programme by adding new tests on beef for horse DNA prior to production in Europe. Assuring the quality and safety of our products has always been a top priority for Nestlé.

"We want to apologise to consumers and reassure them that the actions being taken to deal with this issue will result in higher standards and enhanced traceablity."

JBS said that Schypke, a traditional German manufacturer of processed meat products, is not in any way part of the JBS Group.

"To add flexibility and a just-in-time service to some of its European clients and as a precaution against possible future legal, trade or sanitary barriers, JBS Toledo developed in conjuntion with its customer base alternative lines of additional supply from European sources. JBS Toledo's clients actively participated in the selection process, auditing and approving prospective European suppliers. In this specific case, from the outset of supply, all operational and logistical processes were carried out by the German supplier who delivered the product to the final client," JBS said.

JBS Toledo added that it has suspended all its contracts with Schypke and will not market European meat until confidence is restored in the European beef supply chain.

"No case of co-mingling of species has been identified in products produced in or at JBS factories. As a sign of confidence from its customer base, no supply contracts have been suspended or interrupted and products are being delivered as contracted from the Company's own production facilities," JBS added.

"JBS will take all necessary legal measures to assure that no losses will be incurred as a consequence of this isolated occurance and will continue to serve its customers with quality products, generating value to shareholders and stakeholders alike."

In the UK concern has been rising that mislabelled meats contaminated with horse meat could have entered the public sector catering and food service sector serving meals in institutions such as hospitals, schools and prisons.

The Hospital Caterers Association (HCA) issued a statement reassuring consumers that it was confident that hospital meals have not been affected by the current situation with regard to horsemeat contamination.

"Many hospital caterers prepare meals on site from raw ingredients which include fresh butcher meat. These dishes may then be chilled or frozen in house for serving on site or delivered to other hospitals within the Trust. All fresh meat is subject to traceability tests and producers/suppliers must confirm to caterers the exact provenance of the meat. A number of other hospitals/NHS Trusts do not cook on site and source prepared dishes from leading public sector/catering trade food suppliers. Names include major operators such as apetito and Tillery Valley Foods (TVF)," the association said.

"Hospital caterers are subject to stringent and robust procurement systems that include precise criteria on the traceability of produce. Trading Standards are also able to sample, both methodically and randomly, products on behalf of the Trust.

"Given the robust monitoring and tight controls already in place, the HCA is assured that, should there be even the slightest concern at any time over the provenance of a meat product, the supplier in question would withdraw the affected products and notify NHS/health care customers with immediate effect."

A meeting with food businesses, retailers, manufacturers, wholesalers and trade associations on Monday (18 February) with the Environment Scretary Own Paterson the sector agreed to to do their level best to report back as many testing results as possible to the Food Standards Agency by Friday 22 February.

Mr Paterson said: “This was a most constructive meeting, with a real sense of commitment from everyone that all food businesses, from throughout the industry, are determined to work together to rebuild the certainty and trust consumers deserve.

“I welcome the food businesses’ commitment to testing their products. They all assured me that they will not rest until they have established the full picture. There is still much to be done to find out exactly how this happened and how it can be prevented from happening again, and to do everything possible to reassure consumers about the food on our shelves.”

Mr Paterson updated food businesses including retailers, manufacturers and wholesalers on progress in the investigation in the UK and across Europe. He also reported back on his meetings in Europe, including with Europol with whom FSA have instigated action. Representatives of the food businesses gave an update on the tests being undertaken on beef products, and discussed next steps in restoring consumer confidence.

An update on test results from throughout the food industry will be published by the FSA next Friday, with a further update to be published on Friday 1 March. After that, food businesses will update the FSA on their tests results every three months.

Mr Paterson and the food businesses agreed that regular meetings with companies and organisations from throughout the industry would take place to discuss ways to strengthen the food industry.

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