Nestle, Hit By U.K. Horse Meat Scandal, Pulls Products

Company's Buitoni Beef Ravioli Joins Growing List of Brands and Grocers Scrambling To Appease British Consumers

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Nestle has been drawn into the European horse meat scandal after two of its chilled pasta products – advertised as beef – were found to contain more than 1% horse DNA.

The affected products -- Buitoni Beef Ravioli and Beef Tortellini – have been removed from supermarket shelves in Italy, Spain and France. Nestle has also withdrawn a frozen meat product that it produces for catering businesses, called Lasagnes a la Bolognaise Gourmandes, and suspended deliveries of all products made using beef from a German subcontractor to one of its suppliers.

A statement from the Switzerland-based company said, "Our tests have found traces of horse DNA in two products made from beef supplied by H.J. Schypke. The levels found are above the 1% threshold the U.K.'s Food Safety Agency uses to indicate likely adulteration or gross negligence. We have informed the authorities accordingly. There is no food safety issue… We are enhancing our existing comprehensive quality assurance program by adding new tests on beef for horse DNA prior to production in Europe."

Nestle is the latest household name to be tarnished by the horse meat scandal, which began in January when Irish authorities found traces of horse in beef burgers made by firms in Ireland and Britain, and sold in supermarket chains including Tesco and Aldi.

Burger King binned thousands of Whoppers and Angus Burgers, which were sourced from the same Irish beef supplier, Silvercrest, and Findus "beef" lasagna was found to contain 100% horse meat. Waitrose, a supermarket chain that is part of the John Lewis Partnership, withdrew batches of beef meatballs from shelves when they were found to contain pork.

Tesco immediately ran an apology ad in U.K. national newspapers including The Times, Guardian, Daily Mail and the Sun, and put up a website showing its food suppliers.

McDonald's was quick to knock Burger King by re-running an old print ad by Leo Burnett to remind consumers that its burgers were made of 100% British and Irish beef, while Mini has taken a more light-hearted look at the scandal, promoting its new Roadster with the line, "Beef. With a lot of horses hidden in it."

According to Nielsen, sales of frozen burgers fell 40% in the week through Feb. 2, and more than two-thirds of British adults said they would be less likely to buy frozen meat products in the future. Meanwhile meat substitute brand Quorn is claiming a sales boost of 10% for January.

The horse meat scandal has been variously blamed on overly long supply chains, reduced budgets for the food regulatory authorities, organized criminal activity, and unrealistic consumer demand for cheap products.

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