Koen Verheijden / AFP - Getty Images file
Employees at Willy Selten Meat Wholesale in Oss, Netherlands, work on Feb. 15 after Dutch officials raided the factory believed to be mixing horse and beef and selling it as pure beef. On Wednesday, the Dutch government ordered it and another company to withdraw 55,000 tons of meat from the market.
AMSTERDAM -- Dutch food safety authorities have ordered the Europe-wide withdrawal of 55,000 tons of beef from sale over concerns that it might contain horse.
The Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority said in a statement on Wednesday it had told more than 130 Dutch processing firms to trace the meat, all of which had come from two Dutch wholesalers, and withdraw it.
The wholesalers involved were Wiljo Import and Export and Willy Selten Meat Wholesale.
"It might contain traces of horse meat, but we don't know for certain at the moment if this is the case," said a spokeswoman for the authority.
Inspectors examining Willy Selten's records had found that the origin of the meat it supplied was unclear, the authority said.
The authority said that meant it was impossible to confirm that slaughterhouses had been acting according to procedure. It said it did not know where the meat had ended up, but it could have been used in frozen products.
"The buyers have probably already processed the meat and sold it on," it said in a statement.
"They, in turn, are obliged to inform their own customers."
About 370 companies in other European countries have bought the meat, and the Dutch food authority has warned foreign counterparts about the recall via a European rapid alert system, it said.
It said there was no immediate suggestion of any danger to human health.
In January, tests in Ireland revealed that some beef products contained horse, triggering recalls of ready-made meals in several countries and damaging confidence in Europe's vast and complex food industry.