The new food: meet the startups racing to reinvent the meal

Lab-grown meat and food-tech companies in the US are showing that applying science to what we eat can save the world and make money

” If you induce food that tastes really good, you win ,” tells Josh Tetrick, with a smile. And winning is crucial, he tells, with his company Just in the vanguard of a new sector with an ambitious mission: to employ cutting-edge technologies to create food that they are able to take down the meat and dairy industries.

The scope is huge: growing meat in labs, producing creamy scrambled “eggs” from mung beans, or inducing fish that has never swum in water, or cow’s milk brewed from yeast. The drive is to mitigates the colossal environmental damage worked by industrial farming, from its vast carbon emissions to water pollution and illnes.

And the meat industry appears to be well and truly rattled. In the US the beef industry has filed a petition to omit non-animal products from the definition of meat, while a farmer politician in France has managed to get a law passed that forbiddings vegetarian companies from calling their products “sausages”, ” mince” or “bacon”.

The most famous “alt-protein” product so far is the Impossible Burger, an altogether plant-based patty that has an uncanny resemblance to meat and is now served in more than 1,000 eateries in the US, usually at around $15. The key meaty ingredient in the Impossible Burger- the “blood”- is a hemeprotein found in the roots of soy plants. But the route it is produced for the burger shows how the new food tech companies are harnessing techniques first developed for biomedical uses.

The DNA for the hemeprotein is encoded by genetic modification into a yeast, which is then brewed. The protein, identical to the soy original, is then divided and no GM material objective up in the burger.

The same yeast fermentation technique is being used by other companies to stimulate egg and milk proteins that are identical to the originals, but without actual chickens or cows. Arturo Elizondo, CEO of Clara Foods, based in San Francisco, is targeting a marvel of the culinary world- the egg white, which foams, gels and binds in myriad recipes.

A trillion eggs are feed every year around the world. Illustration: Joe Magee

” I looked into how unbelievably unsustainable animal agriculture is- it truly blew my intellect ,” he says , noting that a trillion eggs are feed every year around the world.” There are more chickens in the US than people, each confined to the area of a piece of paper and never ensure daylight .”

Elizondo’s company has produced animal-free egg white in the lab and is now working on scaling up and putting products on sale by the end of 2019. He tells the GM yeast technique has a decades-long track record:” Insulin[ for diabetics] used to come from animals, you’d kill them and extract the pancreas .” Now it is all made from yeast, as is the rennet used to build most cheese, which once was extracted from the belly of baby cows.

Milk is being targeted by Tim Geistlinger, chief technology officer at Perfect Day in Silicon Valley, who says making real dairy products without cows may once have appeared mad. But the company has already induced yoghurt, cheese and ice cream in their laboratory:” When people think you are crazy, that’s nice, because it allows you to think differently .”

Sweets and makeup are being targeted across the bay at the start-up Geltor in San Leandro, where microbes are being put to work to replace the animal products gelatin and collagen. The company has performed stunts like stimulating gummy bears from gelatin derived from the preserved DNA of mastodons– an extinct elephant-like creature- and growing a leather book binding in the lab. Its first product, launching in April, is for cosmetics.

” Collagen is often the only animal-derived product in cosmetics ,” says Nick Ouzounov, a co-founder of Geltor, with most of it collected from animals.” I think a lot of people overlook that .” The traditional process of extracting collagen and gelatin has an “extreme yuk factor”, he tells:” Skin, bones and cartilage goes into an acid bath for days until the tissues disintegrate .”

But although purely plant-based replacings for meat and dairy are improving fast, can they ever genuinely savor as good the real thing, and become the first choice of regular consumers? Taste has to be the most important factor, argues Tetrick.

” The common denominator between all the folks in the world is they like food that savours good- Donald Trump voters, Bernie Sanders voters, Vladimir Putin voters ,” he tells.” If you can’t make food that is good for countries around the world, and maybe a little bit healthier, also taste really good, then all of this applies to only 1% of the population. And if it only applies to 1% of the population, then there is zero chance it will actually solve the problem .”

Lab-grown meat

Just is also seeking the major slaughter-free alternative- real meat grown from cells in the lab.” My personal sentiment is that, of the $1.1 tn of meat that is bought every year, the great majority of it will not be solved by veggie burgers and veggie nuggets. As much as I might want that to be true, I don’t think it is .”

Lab-grown meat, dubbed” clean meat” due to its lack of microbial or antibiotic contamination, has yet to arrive on the market. But at least a dozen companies are working on it and Just could be the first, having said they will launch an “avian” product by the end of 2018, rumoured to be a replacement for foie gras pate which is now illegal in the US.

Beef, chicken and duck are being developed by Memphis Meats, seen as the clean meat leader and backed by food commodity giant Cargill among others. Steve Myrick, a vice-president at the company, tells:” We very much recognise that the world loves meat and eating it is deeply culturally ingrained. We are not activists. We just want to attain meat that is better .”

The first clean meat burger was created by a Dutch academicat Maastricht University back in 2013. Prof Mark Post , now also head of spin-off company Mosa Meats, is glad other numerous companies have sprung up:” Before I was the only one. I was lonely and wondering if I was crazy .”

But even with the head start, the burgers he hopes to be selling in two to three years will be expensive to start with, perhaps EUR6 per 100 g. The key obstacle, say most clean meat companies, is developing an affordable and animal-free growth medium: the present standard is very expensive and requires growth promoters extracted from bovine embryos.

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Israeli company Alelph Farms is working on lab-grown mince meat and other companies such as Finless Foods are creating clean– with no mercury or plastic contamination though white fish still costs about $7,000 per pound to create at the moment.

Even if the technology does develop to produce delicious, affordable and sustainable food, the potential “yuk factor” of tech-created food hangs heavy over the embryonic sector. Food journalist Joanna Blythman lately criticised the Impossible Burger:” It’s the very antithesis of local food with a transparent provenance and backstory. It’s patently the brainchild of a technocratic mindset, one brought to us by food technologists and scientists whose natural environment is the laboratory and the factory- not the kitchen, farm or field .”

But this is the wrong problem, argues Patrick Brown, founder of Impossible Food and a Stanford University professor.” Currently we generate that hemeprotein by trashing the planet by encompassing it with billions of kine. We need to use every tool at our disposal to deal with this environmental catastrophe. It is not how you do it- it is what you do .”

These products, say their backers, are intended to replace mass-produced animal products , not local organic ones.” From our perspective, health is not the point ,” says Bruce Friedrich, at the Good Food Institute, which supports the alt-protein sector.” These products are for people who currently eat industrially made meat .”

” I don’t think mayonnaise, even ours, is healthy at all ,” says Tetrick.” I’d much rather people have a box of carrots if they are concerned about health, without question .” But he says Simply can attain widely eaten food a bit healthier, by reducing fat and cholesterol.

The history of GM foods is also a cautionary tale. Vonnie Estes, is now an independent food industry consultant but worked for Monsanto in the 1990 s, when the company was aroused about its what its new technology could do.

” Huge mistakes were attained in how that was brought to marketplace ,” she says. GM food has been feed by hundreds of millions of people since, but Estes tells:” There is still a huge group of people who do not want GMOs in their food. Thirty years ago we believed people will get over this quickly- they didn’t .”

Some 62% of Americans said they were likely to try a food constructed use technology. Illustration: Joe Magee

” There is a race to shelf, but not a race to believe how we get to shelf properly ,” says Linda Eatherton, managing director at the Ketchum communication agency, who warns that how alt-protein companies communicate their production processes is” unbelievably critical “.

” My biggest concern is people will rush to shelf and Mr and Mrs Consumer will say’ what the what ?’ How did they make that ?” But there are also grounds for optimism, she tells: a recent Ketchum survey received 62% of Americans are likely to try a food stimulated use technology, rising to 71% among millennials.

Contrasting clean meat with factory farms is also crucial, says Friedrich.” People are eating meat today with their eyes squeezed shut. Nobody wants to even think about slaughterhouses ,” he says.” When we have the two products side by side, I don’t think it is going to be hard to persuade people to switch .”

The environmental benefits also seem clear from the contrasting inefficiency of conventional livestock production: it takes 23 calories of plant feed to render one calorie of beef and farmers have to grow a whole cow , not just the valuable cuts of meat.

However , not many full impact analyses have been done on these new products. Just, whose methodology was independently certified, says its current mayo and cookie products cut carbon emissions by at the least 25% and water use by 75%. Impossible Foods says its burger, which replaces the meat with the heaviest carbon hoofprint, cuts greenhouse gases by 87%.

Could this food could end up being dominated by a few tech giants? All these new foods are produced using techniques that are then patented by the companies to protect their investments, resulting some critics to indicate a creeping privatisation of livestock could occur.

This is rejected by the companies.” You can’t patent nature and we don’t want to lock up our products ,” tells Elizondo, who points out that existing food companies like Kraft already have huge numbers of patents.” We would be totally open to licensing .”

The technological optimism of the young alt-protein sector is clear in the Bay Area, as is the hype. Backers, from Bill Gates to meat giant Tyson, are betting the application of science to food can both save the world and make money doing it.

Whether it can really take down the meat industry, whether it can actually deliver safe, tasty, cheaper food on a large scale and with smaller environmental footprints- and so play a big its participation in saving countries around the world- will only be known in the coming months and years.

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High-speed pig slaughter will be disastrous for everyone involved | Deborah Berkowitz and Suzanne McMillan

A new rule in the US would eliminate food inspectors and lift limits on how quickly animals can be killed. The impact on workers, animals and consumers would be disastrous

The Trump administration has proposed a radical change in food security protection. They’re misleadingly calling it the” Modernization of swine slaughter inspection rule”, but what it actually does is roll back progress on protecting the public from serious and sometimes fatal cancers such as salmonella.

The proposal drastically reduces the number of trained government food inspectors in pork plants, turns over food security functions to untrained plant managers, and by allowing for an unlimited increase in carnage line speeds, sets public health, employee safety and animal welfare at risk.

Over the past few decades, the public has increasingly relied on the government to assure that, when it comes to food safety, the meat-packing industry won’t cut corners and imperil the health of our children, our families and our communities. But the Trump administration has a different position of how much protection we all deserve.

The new proposal, which seeks to privatize the pork inspection system, would eliminate more than 140 food inspectors who now work in the nation’s swine massacre plants. Most of the remaining government inspectors would be removed from the production lines. In their place, the proposal allows a smaller number of company employees- who are not required to receive relevant develop- to conduct fewer inspections. In other words, it allows the industry to police itself, like the fox guarding the proverbial hen( or swine) house.

Of critical fear, the proposal removes any maximum limits on line velocities in animal slaughter plants. Pigs are already slaughtered at an astonishing rate of approximately 1,100 per hour. With this new rule, those speeds could reach up to 1,300 or even 1,500 pigs per hour. This will directly harm the health and safety of the nation’s tens of thousands of meat-packing employees, make it harder for the limited number of meat inspectors to do their jobs, and threaten the welfare of more than 100 million swine per year.
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The proposed increase in line velocities will result in higher injury rates for employees in our nation’s packing houses. Scores of studies show that pork employees already face serious injury rates three times higher than “the member states national” median, and illness rates that are 17 times higher. The pork processing industry is one of the most hazardous for employees. The already breakneck line speeds, coupled with the forceful and repetitive nature of the jobs in meat-packing plants, lead to high rates of devastating traumata and illnesses.

Faster lines and fewer inspectors won’t only have disastrous impacts on employees but also the animals they are tasked with processing. The removal of line velocity caps has been shown to increase the chances for rough animal managing as employees feel the pressure to move pigs quickly through the massacre. This increased speed can result in improper stunning that leads to animals being slaughtered while conscious. Fast line velocities may leave plant employees unable to detect signs of consciousness, or unable to stop the line in time to intervene.

‘ Pigs are already slaughtered at an astonishing rate of approximately 1,100 per hour. Those speeds could reach up to 1,300 or even 1,500 animals per hour .’ Photograph: Gary Calton for the Observer

Reducing the number of inspectors at pig carnage plants will make an already precarious animal welfare situation worse. More federal oversight , not less, is needed to ensure adequate animal handle, welfare, and compliance with federal statute and regulations.

Finally, the proposal will not even lead to safer food. A review of five plants that served as a pilot for this proposal reveals there were more food security violations in these plants than in others. Additionally, a recent review by the USDA’s own office of inspector general found that relevant agencies failed to provide adequate oversight of those plants, and the pilot plants may have a higher potential for food security risks.

Adding insult to injury, the USDA issued this proposal without any final review of the impact on public health. The bureau has not released all the data that supposedly supports the proposal, yet the public is merely being given a few months make a few comments on this new system. How can stakeholders be expected to comment on a proposal without find the final scientific analysis on which it is based?

Clearly, the real goal of this proposal is to allow the meat-packing industry to increase its profits. It’s all about lining the pockets of a few corporate executives- at the expense of customer health, worker safety and animal welfare.

We urge the USDA to consider the millions of lives- customers, workers and trade animals- they are placing at incredible peril. They should reject any increase in line speeds and withdraw the so-called modernisation of swine slaughter inspection rule.

  • Deborah Berkowitz is a senior fellow for worker safety and health at the National Employment Law Project and the former chief of staff at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration; Suzanne McMillan is the content director for ASPCA Farm Animal Welfare Campaign .

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Fear of meat scandal as data shows hygiene breaches at over half UK plants

Almost two-thirds of meat plants in breach of safety regulations in England, Wales and Northern Ireland

The scale of food safety and hygiene problems in meat plants around much of the UK is revealed by new analysis showing more than half of all audited plants have had at least one “major” breach in the last three years.

Inspection figures from the Food Standards Agency( FSA) expose there were on average 16 major plant safety infractions every week between 2014 -2 017, according to a data analysis conducted this week by the Guardian and Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

Almost two one-thirds of audited meat cutting factories( 540 out of 890) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland had at least one instance of major non-compliance with hygiene or food security regulations. Several plants had multiple failures, with 25 violates occurring at plants belonging to Russell Hume, the meat supplier at the centre of recent concerns about UK food hygiene. Scotland has a separate regulator.

A major non-compliance is, by the FSA’s definition,” likely to compromise public health, including food security … or may lead to the production and handling of unsafe or unsuitable food if no remedial action is taken “.

Among the overall number of fails identified by FSA auditors in the period analysed, there were 221 major non-compliances relating to maintaining legal temperature controls, and in excess of 300 relating to minimising health risks of cross-contamination. In addition, more than 50 major violates were discovered relating to ensuring that animal byproducts are correctly identified, and 26 connected to traceability.

Cross-contamination occurs when bacteria or other contaminants are spread between food, surfaces and equipment, and is one of the more common causes of food poisoning, according to the FSA. Traceability is a legal requirement for food business operators to keep records of food and food-producing animals supplied to their business, and those enterprises that they have, in turn, furnished.

Breaches found at the Russell Hume meat plants related to multiple aspects of production, including maintaining legal temperature controls, preventing cross-contamination, ensuring environmental hygiene and management of food security systems.

The findings” raise serious questions as to how robust the FSA’s system for monitoring food hygiene really is”, said Kerry McCarthy MP, who served as shadow secretary of state for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs until 2016.

” These figures are truly shocking ,” Kath Dalmeny, CEO of campaign group Sustain, told the Guardian.” That is why I find it so dismaying that over the last decade our government has slashed the budgets for the bodies who police our food system- our local authority meat hygiene services, independent public analyst laboratories and trading criteria inspectors. They doggedly insist on seeking the flawed notion that light-touch regulation is good enough for the meat industry .”

Ron Spellman, a meat inspector with 30 years’ experience and deputy secretary general of the European Association of Food and Meat Inspectors( EWFC ), said:” What I also find worrying is the attitude of the company I’ve read today, in which they blame the FSA’s handling of the issue for the collapse of the company. There seems to be no willingness to accept responsibility .”

But Prof Hugh Pennington, a renowned expert in bacteriology, pointed out that” Widespread breaches[ are] patently a bad thing, but their detecting shows that the rules and regulations seems to be working. In the past, outbreaks resulted because the regulators were missing the breaches .”

And an FSA spokesperson said:” We carry out thousands of audits and unannounced inspections of meat plants each year to verify that food hygiene criteria are being met. Issues that may pose imminent or serious danger to public health will result in immediate and robust enforcement action being taken.

” Only 2% of plants were found to have more than two major non-compliances. Each audit assesses almost 50 different hygiene criteria and a single issue can result in multiple major and minor non compliances being recorded. Issues of major and minor non-compliance saw through our audits do not inevitably mean that a food business will receive an overall negative outcome. However, it does mean the frequency of audits and unannounced inspections at sites will increase to ensure the issues raised are being addressed .”

When asked what action the FSA had taken in relation to these earlier Russell Hume non-compliances, the spokesman said:” Our published audit data shows that we procured hygiene issues at Russell Hume sites not related to those which we are currently investigating. As a outcome, the FSA carried out increased audits at the affected sites .”

In a statement, the former directors of Russell Hume Ltd said:” Between 2014 -2 017 the FSA carried out a number of routine inspections and audits of Russell Hume’s six branches. The audit system is specifically designed to highlight regions for improvement, and inevitably there were a small number of recommendations over this period that required action. But these averaged around one a year per branch, and taken together and in the context of industry practice as a whole, the audit outcomes were positive for Russell Hume. The company has never been prosecuted for food safety or hygiene offences, and insured no FSA enforcement action taken against it over this period .”

There is growing anxiety that the problems in the industry may be wider than initially supposed. Four different companies have now withdrawn meat, and the FSA has also set up a national its consideration of meat processing plants. This week the agency met with meat industry heads to discuss the situation, for a discussion that was apparently” constructive and engaging “.

In the House of Commons yesterday shadow secretary of state Barry Gardiner asked Liam Fox, secretary of state for international trade, whether he was aware that the FSA had recently imprisoned large quantities of out of date meat in a cold store company. Gardiner said the meat was believed to come from Ireland and South America and that one of the companies he named had been implicated in the Irish horsemeat scandal of 2013 and had previously been is guilty of meat labelling fraud. He asked that the secretary of state” urgently liaises with pastors in the Republic, with the FSA here and with the Irish Food Safety Authority” to look at the furnish chain.

” Failure on this scale can’t be attributed to only a few rogue business falling through the cracks ,” said McCarthy.” Consumers need to have confidence in the system and need to know that action is being taken against companies with incidents of major non-compliance .”

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Vast animal-feed crops to satisfy our meat needs are destroying planet

WWF report finds 60% of global biodiversity loss is down to meat-based diets which set huge strain on Earths resources

The ongoing global craving for meat is having a devastating impact on the environment driven by the production of crop-based feed for animals, a new report has advised.

The vast scale of growing crops such as soy to rear chickens, animals and other animals puts an enormous strain on natural resources leading to the wide-scale loss of land and species, according to the study from the conservation charity WWF.

Intensive and industrial animal agriculture also results in less nutritious food, it reveals, highlighting that six intensively reared chickens today have the same sum of omega-3 as found in simply one chicken in the 1970 s.

The study entitled Appetite for Destruction launchings on Thursday at the 2017 Extinction and Livestock Conference in London, in conjunction with Compassion in World Farming( CIFW ), and warns of the vast sum of land needed to grow the harvests used for animal feed and cites some of the world’s most vulnerable areas such as the Amazon, Congo Basin and the Himalayas.

The report and seminar come against a background of alarming revelations of industrial agriculture. Last week a Guardian/ ITV investigation showed chicken mill staff in the UK changing crucial food safety information.

Protein-rich soy is now produced in such huge quantities that the average European ingests approximately 61 kg per year, largely indirectly by feeing animal products such as chicken, pork, salmon, cheese, milk and eggs.

In 2010, the British livestock industry required an region the size of Yorkshire to makes the soy used in feed. But if global demand for meat grows as expected, the report says, soy production would need to increase by virtually 80% by 2050.

” The world is eating more animal protein than it needs and this is having a devastating effect on wildlife ,” said Duncan Williamson, WWF food policy manager.” A staggering 60% of global biodiversity loss is down to the food we feed. We know a lot of people are aware that a meat-based diet has an impact on water and land, as well as causing greenhouse gas emissions, but few know the biggest issue of all comes from the crop-based feed the animals eat .”

With 23 bn chickens, turkeys, geese, ducks and guinea fowls on the planet- more than three per person- the biggest user of crop-based feed globally is poultry. The second largest, with 30% of the world’s feed in 2009, is the animal industry.

In the UK, pork is the second favourite meat after chicken, with each person eating on average 25 kg a year in 2015- nearly the whole recommended yearly intake for all meats. UK nutritional guidelines recommend 45 -5 5g of protein per day, but the average UK consumption is 64 -8 8g, of which 37% is meat and meat products.

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Aldi confirms up to 100% horsemeat in beef products

Supermarket tells it is angry with supplier Comigel after exams expose 30% and 100% horsemeat in withdrawn ready meals

The environment secretary is due to meet the Food Standards Agency, food both suppliers and retailers on Saturday to discuss the horsemeat scandal after Aldi became the most recent supermarket to confirm its recede beef products contained up to 100% horsemeat.

Owen Paterson said it was unacceptable that consumers were mis-sold products, but that the problems originated overseas.

“We believe that the two particular cases of the frozen burgers from Tesco and the lasagne from Findus are linked to suppliers in Ireland and France respectively. We and the Food Standards Agency cooperate closely with the authorities concerned in these countries, as well as with Europol, to get to the root of the problem, ” he said.

Paterson said he believed the food was safe but exhorted consumers to return products to the retailers. “The French authorities are saying they are viewing the questions as a lawsuit of hoax rather than food security. Anyone who has these products in their freezer should return them to retailers as a precaution.”.

Findus denied reports that the company first knew there was horsemeat in its products last year.

“Findus want to be absolutely explicit that they were not aware of any issue of contamination with horsemeat last year, ” it said in a statement. “They were only made aware of a possible August 2012 date through a letter dated 2 February 2013 from the supplier Comigel. By then Findus was already conducting a full render chain traceability further consideration and had pro-actively initiated DNA testing.”

The Metropolitan police said in a statement it was not carrying out a criminal investigation. “Although we have met with the FSA we have not started an investigation and will not do so unless it becomes clear there has been any criminality under the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan police service.”

Aldi said it felt “angry and let down” by its French supplier Comigel after exams on Today’s Special frozen beef lasagne and Today’s Special frozen spaghetti bolognese found they contained between 30% and 100% horsemeat.

Comigel, which also made the contaminated Findus beef lasagnes, has blamed its suppliers. Erick Lehagre said he believed his company was buying French beef from a company called Spanghero but it had since told him it had come from Romania.

A spokesman for Aldi told random tests had shown that the products they had withdrawn contained between 30% and 100% horsemeat.

“This is completely unacceptable and like other affected companies, we feel angry and let down by our supplier. If the label says beef, our clients expect it to be beef. Suppliers are absolutely clear that they are required to meet our stringent specifications and that we do not tolerate any failure to do so, ” he said.

The company added that it would test the dinners for the veterinary narcotic phenylbutazone, often referred to as bute, but said it was confident the meals were safe.

Hospitals and education authorities were also checking the food they provide for tracings of horsemeat. A spokeswoman for the Local Authority Caterers Association told: “We are as sure as we can be that this is not affecting the school catering area.”

She said there were strict guidelines around food safety and furnishing dinners in schools, including transparency and traceability of ingredient provenance, and this was written into contracts.

Food business have been told to send exam outcomes on all their products to the FSA by Friday but Paterson is expected to tell MPs in a statement on Monday that some suppliers have been complaining to departmental officials that they have come under pressure from supermarket suppliers to cut corners.

As David Cameron indicated that he would have no qualms about eating the kind of processed meat dishes that have been at the heart of the recent scare, authorities insisted there was no evidence that frozen food in general was a risk to human health.

But the FSA advised customers who had bought affected beef lines from Findus not to eat them. They had not been tested for the presence of phenylbutazone, which is banned in the human food chain. It can cause a serious blood ailment in rare cases.

The Guardian has also established that the FSA has been unable to trace all the ponies slaughtered in the UK that tested positive for bute last year. The bureau has routinely been testing less than 1% of slaughtered ponies for the medication, but received four positives in a sample of 82 carcass in 2012. It carried out a special additional survey on a further 63 horses last year and observed 5% of those contained residues, bringing the total of positives to nine.

The Red Lion abattoir, owned by High Peak Meat Exports, has admitted that two of its slaughtered ponies had tested positive for bute “historically” but said this was typical of the industry as a whole and that residue levels were so low as not to be a public health issue. The abattoir is currently under investigation by the FSA for alleged animal welfare abuses, and three of its slaughterers have had their licences to kill horses repealed. The company said it was the FSA’s responsibility to inspect ponies at abattoirs and decide whether they were fit for the human food chain.

The FSA procured six of the ponies found to contain bute last year had been exported to France, two were still being traced, and one had been allegedly returned to two owneds in the north of England for personal consumption. However those who are relatives of one of the owners, in Chorley, Lancashire, told officers they had never received the carcass nor expected to receive it.

Some companies have told the Guardian they began testing their own products soon after the first cases were reported in Ireland in mid-January. All the details of the testing requirements will be sent to the industry on Monday, although relevant agencies tells companies already have enough information to get on with the job and return outcomes by next Friday.

The agency said evidence of the significant amounts of horsemeat in burgers and lasagne pointed “to either gross negligence or deliberate contamination in the food chain”.

It told two particular cases of horse DNA in frozen burgers from Tesco and the lasagne from Findus were linked to suppliers in Ireland and France respectively. “We are working closely with the authorities concerned in such countries to get to the root of the problem. Our priority remains to protect UK consumers.”

Tesco which receded burger lines after one of its products made at an Irish plant had 29% equine DNA and withdrew lasagne make use of Comigel said it had already begun testing other beef lines at independent laboratories.

Cow and Gate, one of the UK’s major baby food companies, began testing its 14 lines containing beef in the second half of last month. The results were due soon, it told. The company, part of the French-based multinational Danone, has no production plants in Britain but has factories in France and Spain. It insists it can tracing meat back to a specific cow. Heinz said it did not source from Comigel and would be responding to the request for testing.

“We merely source beef for our newborn food recipes as whole muscle meat. We are continuing to keep the issue under close review with our suppliers as more information becomes available about the incident and root cause.”

Baxters and Bird’s Eye were among other companies who said they had begun their own tests. Both said none of their products came from any suppliers so far implicated. The Food and Drink Federation, which represents the interests of the UK food industry, emphasised the “small number” of products where significant levels of horsemeat had been detected in so far and said it was “unlikely” “the member states national” testing program would expose negligence or scam by other suppliers.

Meanwhile Findus said it knew there was a potential problem with its lasagnes two days before the products were withdrawn. It was looking into claims by the Labour MP Tom Watson that meat used by Comigel may have been suspect since August last year.

Labour has claimed the loss of 700 trading standards officers in three years has made this type of consumer fraud more widespread.

It also points to FSA’s Meat Hygiene Service suffering cuts of PS12m in the four years to 2014, with the result that the amount of food checked in laboratories has gone down by as much as 30%.

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