DNA testing of food to be stepped up following fears there has been criminal activity on an international scale.
Environment secretary Owen Paterson wants to see more DNA testing on food products.
Organised criminal gangs operating internationally are suspected of playing a major role in the horsemeat scandal that has seen supermarket shelves cleared of a series of products and triggered concerns about the contamination of the UK’s food chain.
Sources close to the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Food Standards Agency said it appeared that the contamination of beefburgers, lasagne and other products was the result of fraud that had an “international dimension”.
Experts within the horse slaughter industry have told the Observer there is evidence that both Polish and Italian mafia gangs are running multimillion-pound scams to substitute horsemeat for beef during food production. There are claims that vets and other officials working within abattoirs and food production plants are intimidated into signing off meat as beef when it is in fact cheaper alternatives such as pork or horse.
In an attempt to reassure the public that Britain’s food chain was not victim to systemic fraud, the environment secretary Owen Paterson on Saturday met representatives from the big four supermarkets, retail bodies and leading food producers to thrash out a plan to increase the amount of DNA testing of food.