Horsemeat crisis hits UK burger sales by 43%

Frozen burger sales are estimated to have plummeted 43% in the UK due to the horsemeat contamination scandal.

And a survey of 6,221 Britons showed more than one third are now less likely to purchase processed meats; 25% said they didn’t buy processed meat anyway.

Only 5% said they would buy less meat.

The contamination issue is likely to continue in the news, with the UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) not expecting to publish detailed results of analysis for horse and pig DNA until April, and ongoing testing of deep frozen meat ingredients and processed foods.

In early test results for 2,501 beef products sold in UK supermarkets and the foodservice sector, 29 samples tested positive for horsemeat at levels of 1% or above, with 950 tests still in progress.

Testing was carried out on both raw ingredients and final manufactured products.

Where products tested positive for horse DNA, they were also tested for the veterinary drug phenylbutazone (bute), but all of those tests were negative, the FSA said.

Last Friday, the EU’s Standing Committee of the Food Chain and Animal Health approved the plan to immediately DNA test beef products and check in abattoirs for the presence of bute, for one to two months.

Tests are being carried out mainly at the retail level, of 2,250 samples across the EU, ranging from 10 to 150 per member state. The EU will part finance the testing.

Meanwhile, UK Environment Secretary Owen Paterson says the EU decision last April to ban the UK’s use of desinewed meat is not linked to horsemeat contamination. DSM is produced using a low-pressure technique to remove meat from livestock bones. Some in the food industry claim the ban led food processors to search for cheaper sources of beef for low-priced British beef products.

*IFA president John Bryan has pointed to inadequate horse traceability facilitating serious mislabelling and fraudulent activity in secondary meat processing in Europe.

He said regulatory authorities across Europe must immediately ensure that controls of horse movement are robust.

More in this section


Keep up-to-date with all the latest developments in Farming with our weekly newsletter

Sign up

Our Covid-free newsletter brings together some of the best bits from, as chosen by our editor, direct to your inbox every Monday.

Sign up