On 16 January 2013 the Food Standards Agency (FSA) confirmed that the Food Safety Authority of Ireland had identified horse and pig DNA in a range of beef products on sale at several supermarkets. This prompted widespread testing of beef products across the EU which led to the discovery of further incidences of contamination and mis-labelling and the mass recall across Europe of processed meat products. To date, producers and retailers in the UK have recalled at least 34 products due to horsemeat contamination and many more as a precautionary measure. In response to the horsemeat scandal, the FSA has launched a UK-wide survey of food authenticity, to be completed by local authorities in three phases, testing 514 products. In addition, criminal action is being pursued and authorities in the UK have made a number of arrests on suspicion of offences under the Fraud Act. The European Commission announced on 16 April 2013 that it had detected extensive food fraud across the EU, after finding traces of horsemeat in 4.55% of some 7000 products tested, and that it was considering a proposal to review the EU food chain legislative framework, including strengthening official controls and imposing financial sanctions on food fraudsters.
The cost of the recalls has yet to be quantified but the losses (which will include the cost of the product recalls, business interruption losses, damage to reputation and the settlement of any third party compensation claims) may be significant for some parties who will be looking to recoup their losses from other parties down the supply chain and, where relevant, their insurers. Continue reading