AN MP has demanded reassurances that Wearsiders are not being fed horse meat in fast food restaurants.
Kevan Jones, who represents North Durham, waded into the row over horse meat being used in beefburgers in parliamentary debate today.
Speaking in the House of Commons, the MP asked whether adulterated meat may have been used in other outlets, including fast food restaurants.
He said: “How confident can my constituents be that they are getting a Big Mac rather than Shergar Mac?”
Environment Minister David Heath replied: “Those investigations are under way to make sure that if this scandal is replicated in other low-cost beefburgers it is picked up and we take the appropriate action.”
The Minister said standards were generally very high in the British food industry and backed the Food Standards Agency’s risk-based checking system.
The Government has said criminal prosecutions could be brought following the discovery of horse meat in some supermarket beefburgers.
Answering an urgent question from Labour’s shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh in the Commons, Mr Heath acknowledged the seriousness of the discovery.
He said: “It is very important neither you, nor anyone else in this House, talks down the British food industry at a time when the standards in that industry are of a very high level.
“Because something has been discovered in Ireland, which is serious, which may lead to criminal proceedings, does not undermine the very serious efforts which are taken by retailers, by processors and by producers in this country to ensure traceability and ensure standards of food that are available to consumers.”
In his remarks, Mr Heath reported to the Commons about the situation, which saw DNA testing in Ireland reveal the presence of horse meat and pig meat in some supermarket beefburgers.
In one case, testing revealed up to 29 per cent of a Tesco burger was horsemeat. The retail giant today took out adverts in national newspapers apologising to customers.
Raising her urgent question, Ms Creagh said there was “understandable” public anger about supermarkets selling food which was not properly labelled.
She said: “Consumers who avoid pork for religious reasons will be upset they may have unwittingly eaten it and eating horse is strongly culturally taboo in the United Kingdom.
“It’s not illegal to sell horse meat but it is illegal not to label it correctly.
“Customers must have the confidence the food they buy is correctly labelled, legal and safe. The UK is part of a global food supply chain.
“The food industry lobbies vigorously for a light-touch regulation system from Government. Testing, tracking and tracing ingredients is expensive but not testing will cost retailers, processors, British farmers and consumers much more.”