Owen Paterson dubs horsemeat scandal completely wrong on Harper Adams visit

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson today labelled the horsemeat scandal ‘completely wrong’ on a visit to a Shropshire university.

Owen Paterson with Vice Chancellor Dr David Llewellyn, left, today
Owen Paterson with Vice Chancellor Dr David Llewellyn, left, today

Mr Paterson visited Harper Adams University near Newport to meet students and discuss the future of farming and technology.

And speaking afterwards, he said: “When it came to public attention I said there’s either a case of gross incompetence or criminal conspiracy, and it looks increasingly like an international criminal conspiracy.

“We have got to get to the bottom of this. It’s completely wrong consumers should buy a product marked beef and find that it contains horsemeat.” Birds Eye today withdrew three beef ready meals from sale in the UK and Ireland.

In a statement released today, the company said: “We want to reassure you from the testing we have completed that all Birds Eye beef burgers, beef pies and beef platters do not contain horse DNA.

“Regrettably, we have found one product, chilli con carne, produced by Frigilunch NV and sold in Belgium, that has tested positive for horse DNA at two per cent.

“While this is not a food safety issue, it is clearly unacceptable. In accordance with our high standards, we are withdrawing this product from sale in Belgium.

“As a precautionary measure in the UK and Ireland we will be withdrawing all other products produced by the same supplier, namely traditional spaghetti bolognese 340g, shepherd’s pie 400g and beef lasagne 400g.”

At Harper Adams today, Mr Paterson spoke with final year students on his first visit to the university in two years, ahead of a further meeting this afternoon with Shropshire Chamber of Agriculture, at Shrewsbury Town’s Greenhous Meadow stadium.