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Horsemeat found in hamburgers in Britain and Ireland

By Jethro Mullen, CNN
updated 8:20 PM EST, Wed January 16, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Irish Food Safety Authority finds horse DNA in 10 out of 27 burgers it tested
  • The hamburgers are on sale in supermarkets in Ireland and Britain
  • The agency finds 29% of a burger from Tesco to be made of horsemeat
  • Tesco says it has withdrawn from sale all products from the supplier in question

(CNN) -- The discovery of horse DNA in hamburgers on sale at supermarkets in Ireland and Britain is testing the appetite of meat lovers there.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland said Tuesday that 10 out of 27 hamburger products it analyzed in a study were found to contain horse DNA, and 23 of them tested positive for pig DNA.

Read more: Multi-state beef recall tied to potential E. coli contamination

The horse-tainted burgers, on sale at several different supermarket chains, came from two meat processing plants in Ireland and one in Britain, the Irish authority said.

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"This raises concerns in relation to the traceability of meat ingredients and products entering the food chain," it said, but noted that the findings posed no risk to public health.

Read more: Bacteria seen in nearly half of U.S. meat

In nine out of the 10 burger samples, the horse DNA was found at very low levels, the authority said, but in one sample from Tesco, Britain's largest retailer, the horsemeat accounted for about 29% of the burger.

Tesco responded by pulling from its shelves all products from the company that had supplied the dubious burgers.

Read more: How severe weather makes people go hungry

"We understand that many of our customers will be concerned by this news, and we apologize sincerely for any distress," Tesco said.

The retailer is working with Irish and British authorities and the supplier to work out what had happened, it said.

Alan Reilly, the chief executive of the Irish food authority, said there was a "plausible explanation" for the pig meat finding its way into the burgers, since meat from different animals is processed at the same plants. But he said there was "no clear explanation at this time" for the presence of the horsemeat.

Report: Unsafe food putting lives at risk

"In Ireland, it is not in our culture to eat horsemeat and therefore, we do not expect to find it in a burger," Reilly said. "Likewise, for some religious groups or people who abstain from eating pig meat, the presence of traces of pig DNA is unacceptable."

Many British and Irish people expressed their distaste over the revelations on social media.

Read more: Horse -- coming soon to a meat case near you?

Some Twitter users said they weren't surprised to hear about the questionable origins of the burgers, while others debated the ethics of eating horsemeat.

And then there were those who saw an opportunity for attempts at humor.

"Going to #tesco and expecting a beef burger. Instead you get #horsemeat . Sounds to me like foal-play," wrote Twitter user Matt Oswin under the username @BrushmanLestar.

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