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According to results from the European Commission, horse DNA has been found in up to 5% of beef products randomly tested across the EU.

Inspectors also found the banned anti-inflammatory horse drug phenylbutazone, or “bute”, in 0.5% of horsemeat tested.

The EU said it was “a matter of food fraud and not of food safety”.

The three-month programme of checks was agreed by the 27 EU member states in February after horsemeat had been found in a batch of Findus frozen lasagne.

Horse DNA has been found in up to 5 percent of beef products randomly tested across the EU

Horse DNA has been found in up to 5 percent of beef products randomly tested across the EU

“Restoring the trust and confidence of European consumers and trading partners in our food chain following this fraudulent labeling scandal is now of vital importance for the European economy,” said EU Commissioner for Health and Consumers Tonio Borg.

Tonio Borg said the Commission would “propose to strengthen the controls along the food chain in line with lessons learned.”

Of the 4,144 tests carried out across the EU for the presence of horsemeat DNA, 193 were positive (4.66%).

There were 3,115 tests for bute, of which 16 were positive (0.51%).

In addition, member states reported another 7,951 tests for horse DNA performed by food business operators; of these 110 were positive (1.38%).

The number of tests varied between 10-150 samples depending on the size of the EU country and on consumption habits, the Commission said.

The tests were commissioned by the EU amid concerns about possible fraudulent attempts to sell horsemeat as processed beef in a number of member states.

The tests, although not comprehensive, provide an indication of the scale of the problem.

Last week the Dutch government announced that, as part of its investigations, it had identified two processing plants that might have supplied horsemeat as beef since January 2011.

The European Commission believed the EU had one of the best food safety systems in the world but it relied on a complex web of suppliers.

The food companies across the EU were so interwoven that one fraud could have a serious ripple effect across a number of countries.

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Germany’s development minister has suggested food tainted with horsemeat should be distributed to the poor.

Dirk Niebel said he supported the proposal by a member of the governing CDU party, and concluded: “We can’t just throw away good food.”

The opposition dismissed the idea, but a priest said it should be considered.

Meanwhile, traces of horse DNA have been found in six tons of minced beef and 2,400 packs of lasagne bolognese seized from a company in Italy.

The products were packaged by Italian group Primia, which is based in the town of San Giovanni in Persiceto, near the city of Bologna.

The health ministry said Primia had used meat from another company in Brescia and originally supplied by two other companies, also based there.

It is the first positive test in Italy since the scandal erupted last month.

Earlier, the Italian authorities said they had found no traces of horsemeat in beef products seized this week from the Swiss food giant, Nestle.

The health ministry said the 26 tons of cooked and frozen mince beef meals would be returned. A Nestle spokesman welcomed the decision.

On Monday, Nestle announced that it was withdrawing two types of beef pasta meals from supermarkets in Italy and Spain after test revealed traces of horse DNA.

A problem was identified with a supplier in Germany, H J Schypke, it said.

Another German supplier, Dreistem, has been blamed for recalls of tinned goulash sold by the Lidl in Germany and Scandinavia, while a third, Vossko, has been accused by Liechtenstein’s Hiclona of supplying beef tainted by horse for a pasta product withdrawn in Austria and Germany. All three companies have blamed their own suppliers.

On Friday evening, Germany’s consumer affairs ministry announced that it had now found traces of horse DNA in 67 of 830 food products tested.

Germany's development minister has suggested food tainted with horsemeat should be distributed to the poor

Germany’s development minister has suggested food tainted with horsemeat should be distributed to the poor

On Saturday, a prominent member of the governing CDU party, Hartwig Fischer, told Bild newspaper that products tainted with horsemeat should be distributed to the poor.

The opposition has dismissed the idea as “absurd” and an insult to poor people, but Prelate Bernhard Felmberg, the senior representative of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), has backed the proposal.

“We as a Church find the throw-away mentality in our society concerning. How and whether to distribute the products in question would have to be examined,” the priest said.

“But to throw away food that could be consumed without risk is equally bad as false labelling and cannot be a solution.”

Meanwhile, France’s agriculture ministry said several horse carcasses containing the drug phenylbutazone, also known as bute, had probably entered the human food chain.

A ministry spokesman told the AFP news agency that it was alerted by the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) that six carcasses had been exported to France in January, but that the meat had already been processed. There was only a “minor” health risk, he added.

Earlier, three major French food companies have agreed to use only French beef in their products.

Findus – one of the firms at the heart of the scandal – and retailers Carrefour and Intermarche announced at the French Agricultural Salon that they would start using labels saying “100% French” from March.

French President Francois Hollande has said he wants mandatory labelling of the origin of meat used in processed food products. However, only a change in European Union legislation can compel manufacturers.

European agriculture ministers are expected to discuss origin labelling and meat traceability at a meeting in Brussels on Monday.

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McDonald’s have altered its burger’s ingredients after chef Jamie Oliver forced them to remove a processed food type that he labelled “pink slime”.

Chef Jamie Oliver, who is also a food activist, was shocked when he learned that ammonium hydroxide was being used by McDonald’s to convert fatty beef offcuts into a beef filler for its burgers in the USA.

The filler product made headlines after he denounced it on his show, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.

“Basically, we’re taking a product that would be sold at the cheapest form for dogs and after this process we can give it to humans,” said TV chef Jamie Oliver.

McDonald's have altered its burger’s ingredients after Jamie Oliver forced them to remove a processed food type that he labelled “pink slime”

McDonald's have altered its burger’s ingredients after Jamie Oliver forced them to remove a processed food type that he labelled “pink slime”

Jamie Oliver showed American audiences the raw “pink slime” produced in the ammonium hydroxide process used by producers named Beef Products Inc (BPI).

“Pink slime” has never been used in McDonald’s beef patties in the UK and Ireland which source their meat from farmers within the two countries.

Now after months of campaigning on his hit US television show McDonald’s have admitted defeat and the fast food giant has abandoned the beef filler from its burger patties.

US Department of Agriculture microbiologist Geral Zirnstein agreed with Jamie Oliver that ammonium hydroxide agent should be banned.

Geral Zirnstein said: “I do not consider the stuff to be ground beef and I consider allowing it in ground beef to be a form of fraudulent labelling.”

Jamie Oliver is pleased at the decision by McDonald’s stop using the ammonium hydroxide processes meat.

He said: “Why would any sensible human being want to put ammonia-filled meat into their children’s mouths?

“The great American public needs to urgently understand what their food industry is doing.”

McDonald’s denied its hand had been forced by Jamie Oliver’s campaign.

Todd Bacon, Senior Director of U.S. Quality Systems and Supply Chain with the fast food chain, said: “At McDonald’s food safety has been and will continue to be a top priority.

“The decision to remove BPI products from the McDonald’s system was not related to any particular event but rather to support our effort to align our global beef raw material standards.

“McDonald’s complies with all government requirements and food safety regulations.

“Furthermore, we have our own food safety measures and standards in place throughout the entire supply chain to ensure that we serve safe, high quality food to every customer, every time they visit our restaurants.”

Two other chains, Burger King and Taco Bell, have earlier bowed to pressure and removed ammonium hydroxide processed ingredients from their products.

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