Five questions answered on the latest development in the horsemeat scandal

Plot thickens with Findus lasagne.

As the plot thickens in the UK horsemeat food fiasco we answer five questions on the latest developments.

What’s happened now?

Due to more products being found to contain horsemeat – the latest is Findus’s lasagne containing up to 100 per cent horsemeat – The Food Standards agency has ordered all UK retailers to test processed beef products for horsemeat.

The agency has asked for test results by next Friday.

Findus had tested 18 of its beef lasagne products and found 11 meals containing between 60 per cent and 100 per cent horsemeat. The products were made by a third-party French supplier, Comigel, who alerted the company that they may not “confirm to specification”.

Why is this happening?

No one knows for sure, but there has been speculation that criminal activity may be responsible.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has already said it was "highly likely" criminal activity was to blame for the contamination.

It’s Chief executive Catherine Brown told the BBC: "I have to say that the two cases of gross contamination that we see here indicates that it is highly likely there has been criminal and fraudulent activity involved.”

The FSA added that police are involved in ongoing enquires in relation to the horsemeat scandal.

Is there any health risk from all this unauthorised meat that has found its ways into supermarkets’ frozen foods?

No. The FSA has said:

"There is no reason to suspect that there's any health issue with frozen food in general, and we wouldn't advise people to stop eating it."

Although, it has asked Findus to test its products for the veterinary drug phenylbutazone, or "bute, which is not allowed to the enter food system, but if it did it could be harmful to humans.

Is this food still on supermarket shelves?

On Monday Findus withdrew its beef lasagne in 320g, 360g and 500g sizes as a precaution

Earlier this week, Comigel had advised Findus and Aldi to withdraw Findus Beef Lasagne and Aldi's Today's Special Frozen Beef Lasagne and Today's Special Frozen Spaghetti Bolognese. An Aldi spokesperson confirmed they had been removed and it is conducting its own investigation.

Tesco also decided to withdraw Everyday Value Spaghetti Bolognese as it was produced at the same site, but there is no evidence it has been contaminated.

What’s going to happen next?

Most likely more revelations, these are expected as further testing is carried out.

Labour's Mary Creagh told the BBC:

"What we have had over the last four weeks is a constant drip, drip, drip of revelations from the food industry, from the Food Standards Agency, and what I am worried about is that the more they are testing for horse, the more they are finding," she said.

Adding: "It's simply not good enough for ministers to sit at their desks and pretend this isn't happening."

A statement from the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) to the BBC said "deplores the latest reported incidents of gross contamination of some processed meat products".

"The BMPA has urged its members to be vigilant, and to review their raw material and ingredients-sourcing procedures in order to ensure that they meet their responsibilities to produce safe food and to describe and label their products accurately."

Photograph: Getty Images

Heidi Vella is a features writer for

Photo: Getty Images
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The future of policing is still at risk even after George Osborne's U-Turn

The police have avoided the worst, but crime is changing and they cannot stand still. 

We will have to wait for the unofficial briefings and the ministerial memoirs to understand what role the tragic events in Paris had on the Chancellor’s decision to sustain the police budget in cash terms and increase it overall by the end of the parliament.  Higher projected tax revenues gave the Chancellor a surprising degree of fiscal flexibility, but the atrocities in Paris certainly pushed questions of policing and security to the top of the political agenda. For a police service expecting anything from a 20 to a 30 per cent cut in funding, fears reinforced by the apparent hard line the Chancellor took over the weekend, this reprieve is an almighty relief.  

So, what was announced?  The overall police budget will be protected in real terms (£900 million more in cash terms) up to 2019/20 with the following important caveats.  First, central government grant to forces will be reduced in cash terms by 2019/20, but forces will be able to bid into a new transformation fund designed to finance moves such as greater collaboration between forces.  In other words there is a cash frozen budget (given important assumptions about council tax) eaten away by inflation and therefore requiring further efficiencies and service redesign.

Second, the flat cash budget for forces assumes increases in the police element of the council tax. Here, there is an interesting new flexibility for Police and Crime Commissioners.  One interpretation is that instead of precept increases being capped at 2%, they will be capped at £12 million, although we need further detail to be certain.  This may mean that forces which currently raise relatively small cash amounts from their precept will be able to raise considerably more if Police and Crime Commissioners have the courage to put up taxes.  

With those caveats, however, this is clearly a much better deal for policing than most commentators (myself included) predicted.  There will be less pressure to reduce officer numbers. Neighbourhood policing, previously under real threat, is likely to remain an important component of the policing model in England and Wales.  This is good news.

However, the police service should not use this financial reprieve as an excuse to duck important reforms.  The reforms that the police have already planned should continue, with any savings reinvested in an improved and more effective service.

It would be a retrograde step for candidates in the 2016 PCC elections to start pledging (as I am certain many will) to ‘protect officer numbers’.  We still need to rebalance the police workforce.   We need more staff with the kind of digital skills required to tackle cybercrime.  We need more crime analysts to help deploy police resources more effectively.  Blanket commitments to maintain officer numbers will get in the way of important reforms.

The argument for inter-force collaboration and, indeed, force mergers does not go away. The new top sliced transformation fund is designed in part to facilitate collaboration, but the fact remains that a 43 force structure no longer makes sense in operational or financial terms.

The police still have to adapt to a changing world. Falling levels of traditional crime and the explosion in online crime, particularly fraud and hacking, means we need an entirely different kind of police service.  Many of the pressures the police experience from non-crime demand will not go away. Big cuts to local government funding and the wider criminal justice system mean we need to reorganise the public service frontline to deal with problems such as high reoffending rates, child safeguarding and rising levels of mental illness.

Before yesterday I thought policing faced an existential moment and I stand by that. While the service has now secured significant financial breathing space, it still needs to adapt to an increasingly complex world. 

Rick Muir is director of the Police Foundation