The BBC is reporting that inspections of preformed hamburger patties sold at supermarkets throughout the UK and Ireland have turned up evidence of horse meat. Of the 27 products analyzed by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, 10 contained horse DNA and 23 contained pig DNA.
While traces of pig and horse DNA are of course completely wrong, it gets worse. One of the makers of these tainted hamburgers, Tesco, was found to have around 29% horse meat in their product.
The investigation into what exactly happened is ongoing and the individual companies involved have all launched their own investigations. The reports note that the pig DNA might have a "plausible" explanation for getting into the food supply because the plants handle different kinds of meat. But horse meat? People do eat horses, the French are famous for it and the Japanese serve it raw as sashimi, but none of these plants were supposed to be processing horses in any capacity.
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So consider what that means. The pig might have got mixed in by accident, a pretty serious breach of standards but you can imagine that someone pushed a bin full of the wrong kind of butchered meat into the wrong chute and out came pig burgers. But horse meat at a non-horse meat plant, particularly enough horse meat to account for 29% of all the meat in a product belies a problem that goes far beyond lax hygiene standards.
Of course one plausible explanation that's been offered by the companies is that they were being deceived by their suppliers. After all, they don't necessarily slaughter the animals at their factories and it's possible a shady supplier was trying to pass off horse meat for beef.