THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Dutch authorities are recalling 50,000 tons of meat sold as beef across Europe because its exact source cannot be established and it may contain horse meat, a spokeswoman said Wednesday.
The announcement was the latest development in a far-reaching scandal that saw horse meat mixed in with other meats and sold as beef across the continent without informing consumers. The scandal led to recalls of products ranging from frozen lasagna to Ikea's Swedish meatballs.
In all, 370 different companies around Europe and 132 more in the Netherlands are affected by the latest recall because they bought meat from two Dutch trading companies, said Esther Filon of the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority.
The food authority said in a statement that because the exact source of the meat cannot be traced "its safety cannot be guaranteed." The statement added that Dutch authorities have "no concrete indications that there is a risk to public health."
Filon said the recall covers meat dating back to Jan. 1, 2011, up until Feb. 15 this year, when the companies at the heart of the recall were placed under heightened scrutiny and faced criminal investigations.
She conceded that – because the recall dates back more than two years – some of the meat "may already have been consumed." Filon said authorities are bound by law to recall the meat if it is unclear where exactly it came from.
"If meat has an unclear source then the law – the general food law – says it is no longer fit for human or animal food," she told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
Dutch authorities began a large-scale investigation into the country's meat industry in February after the horse meat scandal broke across Europe.
The authority named two companies with the same owner as the source of the meat covered by Wednesday's recall: Wiljo Import en Export B.V. and Vleesgroothandel Willy Selten B.V.
Calls to Willy Selten went unanswered Wednesday.
It was not immediately clear how much of the meat is likely to be tracked down. Dutch authorities say they have no plans to test all the meat. The recall covers countries including France, Germany and Spain and the nations involved are responsible for managing it.