Birds Eye is withdrawing three beef ready meals from sale in the UK and Ireland.

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The move follows tests that found 2% of horse DNA in a chilli con carne dish which is sold by Birds Eye in Belgium.

Its 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bolognese, shepherd’s pie and lasagne are made by the same Belgian manufacturer, Frigilunch N.V., and are being withdrawn “as a precautionary measure”.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, which has a factory in Lowestoft which employs around 750 people, 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.

“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%.

“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.

“As a precautionary measure in the UK and Ireland we will withdraw all other products produced by the same supplier, namely traditional spaghetti bolognese 340g, shepherd’s pie 400g and lasagne 400g.”

Iglo Foods Group, which owns Birds Eye and Findus, 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 chilli con carne is the only product that they have found to contain equine DNA.

The Birds Eye products taken off UK supermarket shelves will not be replaced 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.

Birds Eye said in the statement: “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.

“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.”

The Birds Eye announcement comes as the Food Standards Agency prepares to publish the results of its latest round of industry tests on meat products later today.

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