Horsemeat scandal: Burgers withdrawn by councils

Burgers in a pan
Image caption Three samples at BMC tested positive for equine DNA

Seven Welsh councils say they were supplied with burgers made by a firm where horse DNA has been found.

The Burger Manufacturing Company (BMC), at Llanelwedd, Builth Wells has since withdrawn suspect products after three samples tested positive for horsemeat.

BMC said its meat came from Farmbox Meats in Ceredigion, which is already under police investigation.

Monmouthshire, Blaenau Gwent, Merthyr, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Caerphilly, Powys and Neath Port Talbot are all affected.

The food distribution company Holdsworth Foods, which delivers the burgers to the local authorities, has also confirmed it has withdrawn those products.

Monmouthshire, Blaenau Gwent, RCT and Powys councils told BBC Wales that they too have acted to remove the burgers from their stocks.

Caerphilly council said it was continuing to work with its suppliers on the issue, while Merthyr Tydfil has yet to respond to inquiries from BBC Wales, as had Neath Port Talbot.

In a statement, Monmouthshire council said: "We are able to confirm that one of our suppliers has informed us that some batches of hamburgers supplied to them have been found to contain horsemeat.

"Whilst we cannot be sure that products supplied to us have been contaminated in this way, we have taken prompt action.

"We have asked all schools that we provide the catering for to withdraw the hamburgers supplied by the firm and use alternatives.

"We are clear that there are no health risks associated with the hamburgers supplied to us."

The council said it had not received any new deliveries of burgers since 21 January.

Mid-Wales link claim

The latest developments emerged after Powys council confirmed it tested burgers at BMC following a request by the Food Standards Agency, Dyfed-Powys Police and Powys trading standards.

Three samples tested positive for horsemeat DNA of at least 1%.

But the director of BMC, John Sparks, said the contamination could be traced back to the Ceredigion firm being investigated by police, Farmbox Meats.

Two men were arrested at Farmbox at Llandre, near Aberystwyth, last week on suspicion of Fraud Act offences.

One of those individuals is understood to be the owner of Farmbox, 64-year-old Dafydd Raw-Rees. Both men have been released by Dyfed-Powys Police on bail.

BMC director, Mr Sparks said: "Following rigorous tests by trading standards, environmental health, the Food Standards Agency (FSA), I can confirm that traces of horse meat have been found in some of our previous batches of burgers which are now being recalled and all customers affected have been contacted.

"Following a thorough investigation, we are confident that the meat can be traced back to our supply from Farmbox Meats Ltd.

"With immediate effect, we stopped using the supply to ensure that it did not enter any other products.

"This is an isolated incident. Our products regularly undergo rigorous tests from both and internal and external auditing procedure."

BBC Wales has tried to contact Mr Raw-Rees but he was unavailable for comment.

Answering a question in the assembly on the latest developments, deputy minister for agriculture Alun Davies added: "The burger company you refer to, of course, was a client of Farmbox, and as a consequence they, like all clients and customers of Farmbox, have been contacted and their meat is being seized and tested, and that process is ongoing.

Customer base

"I've been in daily contact with the FSA over this period and I receive updates from the FSA on a regular basis on their investigations.

"The FSA have been following up the entire customer base from Farmbox in order to test all the meat that was supplied to those customers at that time, and that is part of this process."

BMC is the latest Welsh company forced to act over the horsemeat scandal.

On Wednesday, Carmarthenshire firm Castell Howell Foods said it had contacted the five customers who received deliveries of a range of frozen cottage pies.

The Cross Hands company said it followed discussions with frozen ready meals supplier Oak Farm over the possibility of horsemeat contamination.

Oak Farm has launched an investigation, but also stressed that all tests for equine DNA on products to date have tested negative.

Across Wales, other councils have already said they are taking steps to ensure horsemeat is not reaching schools, hospitals and homes.

A number of authorities, including Anglesey and Newport, have confirmed that several products have been withdrawn from school meals.

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