Compass, Whitbread drawn into horsemeat scandal

Fri Feb 15, 2013 10:08am EST
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By Neil Maidment and James Davey

LONDON (Reuters) - Compass Group, the world's biggest catering firm, and Whitbread, Britain's biggest hotel group, are the latest companies to be dragged into the growing horsemeat scandal, saying equine DNA was found in products they sold as beef.

The scandal, which has triggered product recalls and damaged confidence in Europe's vast and complex food industry, erupted last month when tests carried out in Ireland revealed that some beef products also contained horsemeat.

It has enraged shoppers and implicated retailers, processors, traders and abattoirs stretching from Ireland and France to Cyprus and Romania.

Compass, which serves 4 billion meals a year, said on Friday it had sold beef burgers distributed by Irish firm Rangeland Foods to a small number of sites in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Compass' own tests showed those products contained "a minor amount of horse DNA". Those products have now been withdrawn, it said, adding it was now testing all processed meat products and working to establish the details of what happened.

Whitbread, owner of Costa Coffee, pub restaurant chains Beefeater and Brewers Fayre, and hotel chain Premier Inn, said beef burger and lasagne products had tested positive for horse DNA and been withdrawn from sale.

"We are shocked and disappointed at this failure," it said.

Separately, Lancashire County Council in north-west England said it was recalling cottage pies from 47 schools after they tested positive for traces of horse DNA.   Continued...

The sign of Whitbread's Premier Inn hotel is seen in Ashby de la Zouch, central England June 17, 2008. REUTERS/Darren Staples