Tests by Powys Council revealed the presence of horse DNA in three samples from catering supplier the Burger Manufacturing Company (BMC), based in Builth Wells.
John Sparks, the company’s md, told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “I was totally gutted to hear the news.”
Sparks – who also owns and runs Sparks Catering Butchers in Enfield, north London – added: “We set the businesses up 12 years ago to be sure what was going into our products. We regularly have them tested for E.coli but this is first time DNA testing has been done.”
The BMC bought the meat in a seven tonne consignment “next door” from Farmbox Meats in Aberystwyth.
Raided by police
The meat processing plant Farmbox Meats was raided earlier this month by the police and the Food Standards Agency (FSA). The owner, Dafydd Raw-Rees was arrested on suspicion of selling horse meat as beef.
Sparks told us: “We have always bought on 80−90% visual inspection. I’ve been in this trade for 62 years – in retail, slaughter and manufacture – and we’ve done nothing wrong.
“We have always bought on trust. What are we supposed to do – stand over the supplier while they debone the meat?”
The BMC has stopped production and stock worth hundreds of thousands of pounds has now been impounded.
Sparks said he hoped the news would not threaten the job security of his 75 employees in Builth Wells and Enfield.
He added in a statement: “Our decision to use Farmbox Meats was to help boost local businesses, and because of our belief in the quality of their meat. It is disappointing that on this occasion the high standards we expect have not been met.”
‘High standards not met’
The statement went on to claim that this was an isolated incident. The BMC’s products regularly undergo rigorous tests from both internal and external auditing procedures, it said. Products would now be subject to DNA testing procedures.
A Powys council spokesman said: “It has been confirmed that out of the samples taken from two different producers in the county, three samples of beef products (burgers) have tested positive for horse and lamb meat.
“It is not known at this stage to what level the contamination has occurred and further test results are awaited.
“Investigations are ongoing in conjunction with Food Standards Agency Wales and Dyfed Powys Police.”
The BMC website states: “Our products have full traceability and can be purchased with absolute peace of mind. In our desire to exceed our customer’s expectations, we are particularly delighted to be able to introduce to you this range of specialist meat products.”
Meanwhile, the Food Standards Agency will today (February 22) release further results of tests for horse DNA.