The Netherlands said today it was probably too late to recover most of 50,000 tonnes of beef recalled over concerns it may contain horsemeat because much of it probably has been eaten in the past two years.
The meat, sold as beef but suspected of containing horsemeat, was shipped to 380 companies in the Netherlands and at least three other European Union member states between January 2011-January 2013, the Dutch food safety authority said.
Some of the meat may be in frozen meals with long expiration dates still in supermarket freezers.
The food authority fears the beef may have been mixed with horsemeat because Dutch meat exports labelled pure beef tested in March contained horse.
The majority of the foreign buyers of the 50,000 tonnes were 124 food makers and retailers in Germany.
Spain followed at 71, with 55 in France. The remainder were Dutch.