Tesco came under fire late night last night after its customer services team tweeted a comment to followers referring to hay – a staple food source for horses.

Around 11pm last night the statement, “it’s sleepy time so we’re off to hit the hay! See you at 8am for more,” was tweeted by @UKTesco – the Twitter account for Tesco Customer Care.

The retailer was subsequently criticised by Twitter users for sending out the tweet. “Wrong PR strategy” tweeted one, and another added: “not sure Tesco should make horse jokes”.

Tesco responded by tweeting: “I’m terribly sorry. That tweet was scheduled before we knew of the current situation”.

The tweet was incredibly poorly timed, as it coincided with the news that Anglo Beef Processors had suspended all production at its Silvercrest site in Ireland, one of the meat processing plants implicated in the horse meat contamination scandal.

Also last night, test results were released by Ireland’s department of agriculture, food and the marine. Of seven raw ingredient samples tested, one - sourced from another EU member state – tested positive. All ingredients sourced from Irish suppliers tested negative.

A spokeswoman for Tesco told The Grocer: “Our customer services team have apologised directly to any customers who were upset by our pre-programmed tweet.”