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Horsemeat: Minister To Meet Supermarket Bosses

(c) Sky News 2013

The Environment Secretary is meeting supermarkets and food retail bodies to press for details on how they will restore the confidence of shoppers.

Tesco (Other OTC: TSCDY - news) , Asda, Sainsbury (LSE: SBRY.L - news) 's and Morrisons are among those confirmed to be attending the meeting with Owen Paterson in Westminster.

They will be joined by the Institute of Grocery Distribution and the Food and Drink Federation.

It comes as a leading charity claims the Government was made aware that illegal horsemeat was in the food chain more than a year ago.

World Horse Welfare says it had a sit-down meeting with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in 2011, to flag up the problem of horse passports being faked to allow the animals to be slaughtered.

Roly Owers, the charity's chief executive, told Sky News that problems had been reported ever since the passport system was set up in 2005.

"We know that in November (Xetra: A0Z24E - news) 2011 we attended a meeting where the issue of the passport system ... was discussed with Defra and local authorities," he said.

John Young, a former manager at the Meat Hygiene Service, now part of the Food Standards Agency (FSA), told The Sunday Times he helped draft a letter to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in April that year.

But he told the paper the letter to former minister Sir Jim Paice on behalf of Britain's largest horse meat exporter, High Peak Meat Exports, which warned that flesh with possible drug residue getting into food could blow up into a scandal, was ignored.

The FSA revealed on Friday that 2,501 tests were conducted on beef products, with 29 results positive for undeclared horsemeat at or above 1%.

The 29 results related to seven different products, which have already been reported and withdrawn from sale - Aldi's special frozen beef lasagne and special frozen spaghetti bolognese, Co-op frozen quarter pounder burgers, Findus beef lasagne, Rangeland's catering burger products, and Tesco value frozen burgers and value spaghetti bolognese.

Pub and hotel group Whitbread (LSE: WTB.L - news) became the latest company to admit horse DNA had been found in its food, saying its meat lasagnes and beefburgers had been affected and removed from menus.

Horsemeat was also discovered in school dinners, with cottage pies testing positive for horse DNA sent to 47 Lancashire schools before being withdrawn.

The results of tests on further products are not expected to be available until later in the week.

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