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Regulators had not tested for horsemeat DNA in a decade

An emergency summit was held today over the horsemeat scandal. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

It emerged today that food officials have done no DNA testing for horsemeat in the last decade.

The admission came as government announced a new deal with the industry for increased checking of produce before it reaches our plates. But already the plan has come under fire from the retailers' main trade body.

At today’s horse scandal summit, major retailers have agreed to a new regime of regular checks for horse DNA.

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson announced that there will be quarterly updates of tests done by the industry – and they will be published for us all to see.

But it is interesting that lasange-manufacturer Findus was not at the summit.

Food companies will be ordered to test their beef products after some Findus beef lasagnes were found to contain up to 100% horse meat. Credit: Yui Mok/PA Wire

There are 90,000 food tests a year co-ordinated by the Food standards Agency. But 2003 was the last time officials checked for horse DNA. To correct that, around 1,000 beef products per supermarket will now be checked.

But today’s announcement on what is to be tested - and what falls outside the agreement - may baffle shoppers. Lasagne, meatballs and burgers containing beef will be tested for horsemeat. But most pies, soups and meat cuts will not - even if they contain beef.

The new regular tests are in addition to a rapid set of checks the government wants retailers to carry out before Friday - but their trade association says there is too little time and too few labs.

One supermarket chief executive, Dalton Philips of Morrison’s, told me it is not the answer anyway. He thinks we need to simplify the food chain.

What should be Britain’ s most sophisticated supply chain has been undermined, literally, by a bit of horse trading. Regaining public trust is now the aim of Britain’s retailers and regulators - but after weeks of scandal it is a huge task.

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