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Farmers demand action in burger row
Farming leaders have called for immediate action by UK supermarkets to improve their sourcing and labelling of food in the wake of the horse meat burger scandal.
After burgers sold by Tesco, Aldi, Lidl and Iceland were discovered to have contained horse meat, the National Farmers Union (NFU) warned that consumer confidence in the UK food industry had been "severely undermined".
NFU president Peter Kendall said the integrity of UK-produced meat was being compromised by the use of cheaper imports which did not meet the same stringent monitoring systems.
He said retailers must take immediate action to address the integrity of their suppliers and ensure that UK products are easily distinguishable and clearly labelled, so customers can make a conscious decision on the food they buy.
The farming body's comments come after Tesco took out full-page adverts in a number of newspapers apologising for selling beefburgers containing horse meat. Aldi, Lidl and Iceland also withdrew burgers from sale after they were found to contain horse meat.
Sainsbury's, Asda and the Co-op later withdrew some frozen products but stressed that the move was "purely precautionary" and they had not been found to be selling contaminated food. Ten million burgers have been taken off supermarket shelves across Ireland and the UK as a result of the scandal.
The ABP Food Group, one of Europe's biggest suppliers and processors, has stopped work at its Silvercrest Foods plant in Co Monaghan, Ireland, after new tests this week revealed contamination in frozen burgers.
Tests had already shown that Silvercrest Foods and another of the company's subsidiaries, Dalepak Hambleton in Yorkshire, supplied beefburgers with traces of equine DNA to supermarkets, including one product classed as 29% horse. But ABP has insisted that meat for Burger King was stored and processed separately and there is no evidence that products for the fast-food giant have been contaminated.
Another company, Liffey meats, based in Co Cavan, Ireland, was also found to be supplying products to supermarkets with traces of horse DNA. Suppliers in the Netherlands and Spain have been identified as the possible sources for incorrectly-labelled ingredients. ABP said that, following new results from the Irish Department of Agriculture, it believes the source of the contaminated material is one supplier.
Mr Kendall said: "The events of the past few days have severely undermined confidence in the UK food industry and farmers are rightly angry that the integrity of stringent UK-farmed products is being compromised by using cheaper imported alternatives which, evidence suggests, do not meet the robust traceability systems we have in the UK."