The discovery of horse and pig meat in "beef" burger products sold in both Britain and Ireland has sparked widespread outrage, as politicians and religious leaders in both countries wrangle over questions of food safety and misdescription.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who called the burger discovery "extremely disturbing" and "completely unacceptable," announced Wednesday that an "urgent probe" has been launched to thoroughly investigate the claims, the Telegraph reports.
"It is a very important issue and it is an extremely serious issue," Cameron said, according to the outlet. "People in our country would have been very concerned to read this morning that when they thought they were buying beefburgers they were buying something that had horse meat."
Earlier this week, the Associated Press reported that "traces of horse and pig DNA" had been found in burger products in Ireland. This included a "burger sold by global retailer Tesco that authorities said was made of roughly 30 percent horse," the AP writes.
Though Simon Coveney, the country's agriculture minister, blamed a single meat processor in Ireland for the horsemeat-tainted burgers, some now suspect that suppliers in the Netherlands or Spain may be partially responsible for the burger scandal.
As Irish and British food safety watchdogs continue their investigation, the Guardian reported Wednesday that the meaty problem has spread beyond Ireland's borders.
The news agency writes:
Both equine and porcine DNA was found in Irish checks on meat samples at three processing plants -- two in Ireland and one in Britain. The British meat industry has admitted the incidents could undermine confidence in its products while stressing assurances from Irish authorities that human health was not at risk.
But ministers are also acutely aware that the presence of traces of porcine DNA could also prove extremely upsetting given the dietary requirements of some of their populations.
"Observant Jews would only eat certain types of meat, and even then only if the animal had been killed in accordance with the laws of kosher food production," John Benjamin, the chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, told the Guardian. "Those that might be less observant and might eat beef that is not strictly kosher would still avoid pork and horsemeat, and we hope that mistakes in meat processing are not repeated. Keeping to a kosher diet would normally avoid the risks of such contamination."
According to the Telegraph, supermarkets in the UK have already pulled "tens of thousands of frozen beef burgers" from their shelves. Tesco was reportedly the first to do so.
As CNN notes, many in Ireland and Britain have taken to social media to express their horror at the burger scandal.