A NORTH Yorkshire company which produced desinewed meat before EU regulations banned it last year, has told an MP the new regulations led directly to the appearance of horse meat in UK food.
The owners of Newby Foods, based at Newby Wiske near Northallerton, North Yorkshire, used to supply beef and lamb to all the major supermarkets and food processing companies.
But in March last year the European Commission ruled that desinewed meat – meat removed from the bone - must be reclassified as mechanically separated meat.
The EC banned it with seven days notice, despite the UK Government making it clear there were no health risks associated with the product.
The move left many food manufacturers with a very tight deadline to source an equally cheap source of meat for their products.
Newby Foods boss, Doug Manning, said the vast majority of companies his firm supplied prior to the ban have now been found to have been selling products containing horse meat.
Mr Manning, the company's operations director, said: “We produced pork, chicken, lamb and beef. We’re still producing pork and chicken, but just 50 per cent of the business we had.
“I would say 90 per cent of the companies that had a problem with horse meat, we used to supply.”
He said the ban was devastating for the company, which had to lay off more than a third of its staff – 40 people – a month later and now has £2m worth of meat extraction machinery lying idle in his factory.
Today (Thursday, February 21) the company met with North Yorkshire MP Anne McIntosh, head of the Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, as part of her investigation into the horse meat scandal.
In a meeting with farmers in Thirsk, she said there was a direct correlation between the hastily-introduced ban on desinewed meat and the appearance of horse meat in products.
She said when the committee questioned the Food Standards Agency about how long beef products were likely to have been contaminated with horse meat, they were told the contamination was likely to go back to March 2012, when new supplies were sourced.
The committee’s investigations are ongoing and on March 4 and 5 it will question local authorities – including those from North Yorkshire – on food testing.
Ms McIntosh, MP for Malton, Filey and Thirsk, recently called for a ban on EU imports of meat until they were found free from contamination, but the Government said such a ban was illegal unless the meat posed a safety risk.