Horse Meat in Beef Products-
Species Substitution 2013

Michael J Walkera,, Malcolm Burnsb and D Thorburn Burnsc

(a)   Government Chemist Programme, LGC, Teddington, Middlesex, TW11 0LY, UK and to whom correspondence should be addressed:
(b)   Molecular Biology, Government Chemist Programme, LGC, Teddington, Middlesex, TW11 0LY, UK
(c)   School of Chemistry & Chemical Engineering, The Queen’s University of Belfast, Belfast, BT9 5AG, Northern Ireland


On 15 January 2013 the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, FSAI, published a press release on a small survey identifying horse and pig DNA in burger products, initiating a meat substitution scandal that involved most of Europe and maintained high and lengthy media and political salience. Herein we summarise the extent of the substitution, placing it in a historical, food authenticity, food safety and analytical context and drawing conclusions on the future measures recommended primarily to government. We conclude that history teaches us that this will happen again but not in quite the same way. We suggest it is now unlikely that widespread horse meat substitution will reoccur for decades but other frauds will arise and the way to guard against this is continued systematic vigilance. The challenge is to secure a cost effective, efficient scientific infrastructure to support that vigilance in a planned and sustainable manner.

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