Asda’s Smart Price corned beef, which contained the veterinary drug phenylbutazone, was supplied through IPL, its wholly owned sourcing arm, The Grocer can reveal.

Although IPL did not manufacture the product - the 340g cans of corned beef were produced by French company Toupnot - the revelation is hugely embarrassing for Asda, which had been able to distance itself to some extent from the scandal by pointing the finger at third-party suppliers.

In the case of IPL, however, Asda effectively procured the product itself.

Asda sought to downplay IPL’s role in the corned beef’s journey to its shelves.

“All IPL does with this product is ship and distribute it,” said an Asda spokeswoman.

IPL had audited all of its beef manufacturers, including Toupnot, in February this year and had gone “above and beyond” FSA requirements and industry standards to test and trace products it sourced for Asda, another spokeswoman added.

IPL had worked diligently to trace the source of the contaminated beef and Asda had faith in IPL’s procurement model, she added.

“The actions of a few have damaged the reputation of the whole industry and IPL is as much a victim as any other supplier, manufacturer or retailer involved.”

IPL claims it is designed to “improve quality and lower prices for Asda and Walmart customers by controlling supply chains and removing unnecessary margin takers”.

The corned beef was withdrawn from Asda shelves on 8 March after samples tested positive for more than 1% horse DNA.

On Tuesday 9 April Asda recalled all date codes of the product after tests on further samples identified bute, albeit at very low levels.

It is the first time a meat product has tested positive for the drug in the UK since the horsemeat scandal broke in January.

Chief medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davies has said that horsemeat containing bute presents a “very low risk to human health”.

This week, The Netherlands recalled 50,000 tonnes of beef because it could contain horsemeat. As The Grocer went to press, the UK’s FSA was investigating whether any had entered the UK.