Birds Eye is withdrawing three beef ready meals from sale in the UK and Ireland after tests showed 2 per cent of horse DNA in a chilli con carne dish on sale in Belgium.

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The company's spaghetti bolognese, shepherd's pie and lasagne are made by the same Belgian manufacturer, Frigilunch N.V., and are being withdrawn "as a precautionary measure".

In a statement, Birds Eye said: "We want to reassure you from the testing we have completed that all Birds Eye beef burgers, beef pies and beef platters do not contain horse DNA.

Whilst this is not a food safety issue, it is clearly unacceptable, Birds Eye statement

"Regrettably, we have found one product, chilli con carne, produced for us by Frigilunch N.V. and sold in Belgium, that has tested positive for horse DNA at 2 per cent

"Whilst this is not a food safety issue, it is clearly unacceptable. In accordance with our high standards, we are immediately withdrawing this product from sale."

Customer refund

The affected products are traditional spaghetti bolognese 340g, shepherd's pie 400g and lasagne 400g. These products will not be replaced on supermarket shelves until further tests have been carried out, the company said.

Customers who purchased any of the products affected will be given a refund if they contact Birds Eye consumer services.

Testing meat in a lab (Getty)

Birds Eye's parent company, Iglo Foods Group, which also owns Findus in Italy, said it had been carrying out checks on all of its beef products after other manufacturers reported their foods had been contaminated with horsemeat.

The Birds Eye statement continued: "The quality of our food is of the utmost importance to us. We know that our consumers rely on us to be certain that they are eating only what is labelled on the packaging and that they can always rely on us to act responsibly.

Ongoing testing

"Iglo Foods Group has introduced an ongoing DNA testing programme and we have enhanced our normal quality assurance procedures. This will help us ensure that we continue to reach the standards that all our consumers expect from our products.

"We want to apologise to consumers and reassure them that we will keep them fully informed and that we are taking action to deal with this issue."

It has also emerged that burgers containing horsemeat have been on the menu at a college that trains young farmers in Northern Ireland.

Stormont agriculture minister Michelle O'Neill confirmed that equine DNA had been detected in products supplied to two campuses of the College for Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE).

The sites at Greenmount in Co Antrim and Loughry in Co Tyrone were affected.

All burgers have been withdrawn from a manufacturer who produced the affected products and sent samples for testing.

Industry test

The Birds Eye and CAFRE announcements come as the Food Standards Agency prepares to publish the results of its latest round of industry tests on meat products later on Friday.

The FSA has told the food industry to share the results of product tests, which look for horse DNA down to a level of 1 per cent, with the aim of increasing consumer confidence.

Results of the industry tests on 2,501 beef products collated by the FSA last week revealed 29 positive results, relating to Aldi's special frozen beef lasagne and special frozen spaghetti bolognese, Co-op frozen quarter-pounder burgers, Findus beef lasagne, Rangeland's catering burger products, and Tesco value frozen burgers and value spaghetti bolognese.

Pub and hotel group Whitbread has also pulled lasagne and burgers from its menus after admitting horse DNA had been found in its food.

Horsemeat has been discovered in school dinners, with cottage pies testing positive for horse DNA sent to 47 Lancashire schools before being withdrawn.

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