Discounters Aldi and Lidl have found horse meat in tinned pasta and goulash as well as fresh pasta on sale in Germany and Austria.

Aldi Süd announced on Friday (15 February) that it was withdrawing 540g tins of Omnimax beef goulash and 800g tins of Cucina ravioli bolognese from sale in Germany because the products had tested positive for horse.

On the same day, Austrian food watchdog AGES said a test on 400g packs of Combino beef tortelloni sold by Lidl Austria had also come back positive. A second test on the same product did not show any horse contamination, but Lidl has withdrawn the product as a precaution from its stores in Austria and Germany.

The positive test on the Lidl tortelloni marks the first time undeclared horse meat has been detected in a product on sale in Austria, and the Aldi Süd products are the first tinned products to be implicated in the horse meat adulteration scandal, which has to date involved mainly frozen products. Earlier this week, the first chilled processed beef product was implicated, when Asda withdrew fresh bolognese sauce made by Greencore as a precaution because preliminary results suggested it might be contaminated with horse DNA.

Aldi Süd said it started testing its products as soon as the first suspected cases of horse meat contamination emerged, and had withdrawn the goulash and the ravioli on a precautionary basis at the request of its suppliers, who wanted “to protect Aldi Süd customers from being misled”. It stressed there was currently no indication that the products presented a risk to human health and that it was working closely with local authorities to determine the source of the contamination. Consumers would receive a refund if they returned the products to stores, it added.

Lidl Austria stressed only one of two DNA tests on its tortelloni had come back positive for horse, but said it had withdrawn the product across Austria as a precaution to protect consumers. It too said there was no health risk and offered refunds for returned products. Lidl Germany has also removed the product from sale.

The suppliers involved

The Aldi beef goulash is made by German manufacturer Dreistern-Konserven, while the Cucina ravioli are made by BLM, also from Germany. The Combino tortelloni sold by Lidl are made by German-based Gusto GmbH, which is part of Hilcona AG of Liechtenstein.

In a statement, Dreistern said the goulash was safe and had been withdrawn as a precaution only. It was possible the traces of horse DNA that had been found got into the product through cross-contamination at slaughterhouses or in transport containers, it suggested.  “We strongly regret that – despite our constant quality control checks – this incident occurred,” the company said. It added production of beef goulash at its plant in Neuruppin, east Germany, would be suspended until the exact source of the horse DNA had been identified.

BLM also stressed its product was safe and that it had been withdrawn on a precautionary basis to ensure consumers were not misled about its contents and to allow sufficient time to carry out investigations into the source of the contamination. “We apologise for this incident, but we have not to date found any indication of contamination,” it added.

Hilcona said it did not handle any fresh meat but used third-party suppliers. As its specification for Combino beef tortelloni required that only beef be used, it had to be assumed that Hilcona had received “faulty raw material” from one of its suppliers, it added. The meat suppliers in question were either Vossko of Germany or Swiss company Suttero, it said.

On Monday (18 February), it clarified that tests over the weekend had established that Vossko – and not Sutter – was, in fact, responsible for the raw material that had introduced horse DNA into the Lidl tortelloni. It added the Vossko meat had gone into six further products sold in Switzerland – include bolognese sauce and a hot chilli dish – which were now being withdrawn from sale.

Vossko said on Friday it was investigating urgently and had commissioned its own tests, but added it was “very surprised” that horse had been found in the Hilcona product. “Only last Friday we informed our customers that we had received confirmation from all our beef suppliers that they had delivered only pure beef products to us, as required in our specifications,” the company said in a statement. It added it did not slaughter animals itself but worked with long-term third-party suppliers.

Hilcona added because the Austrian authorities’ tests had been contradictory – with one coming back positive and the other negative – it had commissioned its own independent tests, with results expected in the middle of next week.

Hilcona also confirmed to that Combino beef tortelloni had not been supplied to the UK.