The Government is powerless to impose a ban on meat imports unless beef contaminated with horse meat is found to be a health risk, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said today.
Appearing on BBC1's Sunday Politics show, Mr Paterson was asked if he would consider a ban if tests proved there was a food safety risk. He said: "If there is a threat to public health that is allowed within the rules of the European market.
He added: "If they find there is a product which could potentially be injurious to public health, emphatically, I will take the necessary action."
A leading food scientist says the rule change that sparked the horsemeat beef scandal affected lamb products too, and they should be tested.
Retailers and the Food Standards Agency held an emergency meeting today to decide how to proceed with the horsemeat scandal.
The government has called an emergency meeting with retailers and the Food Standards Agency to discuss the horsemeat scandal.