MEAT supplied to schools, care homes and staff canteens is being tested by councils to see if Gwent has been hit by the horsemeat scandal.

Three councils confirmed yesterday tests are under way on food intended for councilrun establishments and samples are also being taken from businesses handling meat in Newport.

Food producers and supermarkets across the UK have withdrawn products after tests found items said to contain beef contained as much as 100 per cent horsemeat.

Newport council said businesses including meat processing premises, importers and handlers are being inspected and formal samples are being taken. Its trading standards officers are verifying supply chains with premises, and a number of independent retailers will be inspected.

Newport is also sampling products destined for councilrun establishments, and reviewing existing stocks.

Cllr Gail Giles, Newport cabinet member for licensing and statutory functions, said: “Our teams continue to work hard to ensure businesses are operating in accordance with the law and that products are of the required standard. We are extending our inspections and thorough checks in line with the recommendations.”

Caerphilly council said it was sampling meat products from its frozen foods supplier as a precaution. However, the authority said its suppliers had told officers they do not deal with any of the firms implicated in recent reports.

Monmouthshire council said it buys meat and meat products via the Wales Purchasing Consortium, and all suppliers are providing test results.

“To date all tests results have been negative for horse DNA,” the council said.

Blaenau Gwent said it is considering targeted sampling “of any higher risk areas if necessary”.

The Welsh Tories yesterday said the Welsh Government must work with councils to launch a testing programme to establish where horsemeat has been sold as beef.

Discovery sparked food chain fears

AN IRISH study which found horse and pig DNA in beefburgers sold by UK supermarets sparked the first headlines in a story that has made global news.

A number of supermarkets have withdrawn products after horsemeat was found in products labelled as beef or pork. Pig DNA has been found in halal products for Muslim prisoners, while Findus had to withdraw beef lasagne after tests discovered it contained up to 100 per cent horsemeat.

The UK Food Standards Agency has admitted a significant amount of horsemeat containing painkiller bute could have been in the food chain for some time.

Two men, aged 64 and 42, were yesterday arrested at Farmbox Meats Ltd, in Llandre, near Aberystwyth, said Dyfed-Powys Police.

ARGUS COMMENT: Testing is so vital

INCREASED testing of meat products is vital if public confidence is to be restored in the wake of the horsemeat scandal.

As an ever-increasing number of beef products are found to contain horse, consumers need to be reassured they are buying and eating exactly what is described on packaging.

So we are pleased to report today that Gwent councils are stepping up testing of meat supplied to them for use in their premises.

School pupils and their parents; care home residents and their families all need to know what is being served on their plates.

Although this scandal is by and large not a public health issue, it is never the less important that people know what they are eating.

Despite not being illegal to buy, sell or eat horsemeat, many people find the idea of eating it quite abhorrent.

Ultimately, this growing scandal is about fraud.

Horse carcasses are considerably cheaper to buy than cattle.

As a result, some unscrupulous suppliers have been passing off horse as beef.

And we have no idea how long this has been going on or in how many countries.

Public confidence in the food we eat is at rock bottom.

The way to restore it is via more vigilant testing and prosecution of those who have defrauded unsuspecting consumers.