DNA tests confirmed over the weekend that dinners tainted with horse meat had reached schools. The discovery prompted British councils to push for the withdrawal of processed beef dishes from menus following the confirmation that the equine meat hidden in cottage pies was sent to 47 schools.
With the disclosure, some parents said they would instead prepare packed lunches for their children rather than be exposed to the horse meat.
In response, the Sheffield council suspended use of all processed meat in school meals as a precautionary measure, the Staffordshire county council likewise withdrew processed beef and the Worcestershire county council is holding DNA tests on school food.
Other Britons who had a taste of horse meat were hospital patients. These developments indicate that the use of horse meat is more widespread than previously reported since one in 65 beef-ready meals across seven products sold in supermarkets and other retailers had equine meat.
The seven are Aldi's special frozen beef lasagna and special froze spaghetti Bolognese, Co-op's frozen quarter pounder burgers, Findus beef lasagna, Rangeland's catering burger products and Tesco's value frozen burgers and value spaghetti bolognese.
In view of the discoveries, the Food Standards Agency closed Flexi Foods, a Danish-owned company based in Hull that imported 60 tonnes of beef from Poland with up to 80 per cent horse meat that supplied schools and hospitals. The agency raided the company and confiscated computers and documents. A Northern Ireland company withdrew burgers it sold to hospitals after tests confirmed their meat had horse DNA.
The French company suspected of passing off horse meat for beef that were found in Findus lasagnes shuttered after customers stopped patronising its products.
To address the crisis of confidence caused by these discoveries, the European Commission plans to carry out by the end of March tests on 2,250 food samples sold as beef products at 10 to 150 samples per country, said Irish Agricultural Minister Simon Coveney.
It appears the practice is not limited to Europe, but also happened in Japan.