Horsemeat has made its way to Europe's dining tables, school lunches, and the meals of hospital patients. The "other red meat" has been tracked across the continent and the English Channel by searching out horse DNA in what people mistake for pure beef.
From one source alone in France, it's thought that the mislabeled meat could have reached as many as 13 countries
When, at the end of January, horse DNA was found in frozen lasagna and beef in Ireland, many thought they were isolated instances. However, later tests mandated by British food safety officials
on food across the United Kingdom revealed that traces of horsemeat were much more widespread.
Food Standards Agency tests found horsemeat DNA in cottage pies delivered to dozens of Britain schools, in addition to hospital meals in Northern Ireland. Officials there said the meals had been pulled.
After severing ties to an Irish meat supplier as a "precaution," the fast-food chain Burger King, which operates more than 500 stores in the UK, revealed that some of its products contained horse DNA.
Whitebread PLC, the country's largest hotel and restaurant chain, said horsemeat was found in lasagna and burger patties it manufactured. The company issued a statement saying it was "shocked and disappointed at this failure of the processed meat supply chain."
British supermarket chains, including big ones like Tesco and Morrisons, said on Friday that tests on its products came back negative for horse DNA, but NorgesGruppen, the country's largest chain, said horsemeat was confirmed in frozen lasagna in its stores.
Most of the horsemeat is not thought to be harmful for human consumption.
"I think there will be still more discoveries to be made," Duncan Campbell, a senior British food inspector, told the BBC. "The more people have looked for horsemeat, the more products have been found containing it. I don't think we have got to the bottom of it yet."
The unraveling scandal shows how little consumers know about food they consume as well as the lack of regulation from the food industry.
The origin of some of the horsemeat has been traced back to French supplier Spanghero, French Consumer Affairs Minister Benoit Hamon told The Associated Press.
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