3/1/2013 6:15 PM ET|
Taco Bell joins Europe's horse meat parade
Tainted beef has been found in the chain's UK meat supplies as continuing discoveries take a toll on overall hamburger meat sales.
First Burger King (BKW) found traces of horse DNA in its British Whoppers. Then Wal-Mart (WMT) subsidiary Asda was forced to pull jars of beef bolognese off its shelves after discovering they contained horse meat. It was also found in Nestlé (NSRGY) pasta products. Then in Ikea's meatballs and sausages.
Now you can add Yum Brands' (YUM) Taco Bell to the mix. Britain's Food Standards agency spotted trace amounts of horse meat in Taco Bell's ground beef used throughout the U.K., according to The BBC. Taco Bell issued a statement saying it's conducting tests on its own, but it has pulled back all its stock of beef from the European plant that supplied the tainted batch.
If other U.K.-based beef-selling chains and supermarkets aren't conducting similar internal testing, now would be a fine time to consider it. Debate about the moral and cultural implications of eating horse aside, the mislabeling of food from fish to donkey meat is costing companies far more than cutting corners likely saved them.
According to market research firm Kantar, frozen hamburger sales in the U.K. have dropped 43% since the horse meat scandal broke. Wal-Mart's sales also took a hit after its stores pulled tainted products.
So how's all this playing in the U.S.? No horse meat has been found here yet, but that could have something to do with Americans eating a whole lot less beef, the soaring price of that beef and the size of the nation's cattle herd dropping to its smallest since 1952.
Meanwhile, the The New York Times reports that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is about to approve a horse-slaughtering plant in New Mexico, despite objections from President Barack Obama's administration and the Humane Society. Once approved, it will be the first time horse meat suitable for human consumption has been produced here since 2007.
Don't worry, Americans: You may get your chance to do a spit take with undeclared horse meat soon enough.
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The company tries to tamp down criticism from activists who argue that the mascot promotes childhood obesity.
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