This news about Taco Bell comes shortly after news broke that horse meat was widely discovered in beef products in Ireland. According to ABC News Radio,
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland announced on Jan. 15 that its meat labeling investigation of 27 hamburger products (which were supposed to contain only beef) revealed that 37 percent of them tested positive for horse DNA, and 85 percent tested positive for pig DNA.
Horse meat has generally been found in "frozen processed beef products - including lasagna and hamburger."
After the meat was discovered, the company issued a statement saying, "We immediately withdrew ground beef from sale in our restaurants, discontinued purchase of that meat, and contacted the Food Standards Agency."
Can you tell the difference between beef and horse meat?
William Hallman, the director of the Food Policy Institute at Rutgers University, said that horse meat looks nearly identical to beef, but it is somewhat leaner.
Dave Arnold, a food safety expert who directs culinary technology at New York's International Culinary Center, said that it's only easy to tell the difference between beef and horse meat in a lab and that regular diners would be unlikely to notice a difference.
Health-wise, is there anything wrong with eating horse meat?
Some have raised concerns about bute or phenylbutazone, a painkiller that is not allowed to enter the food chain, which has been found in horses.
U.K. Department of Health's chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies said that the levels of bute found in horse meat presented a low health risk and "at the levels of bute that have been found, a person would have to eat 500 to 600 burgers a day that are 100 percent horse meat to get close to consuming a human's daily dose."
500-600 pure horse meat burgers in a day is a lot of burgers. No one seems to be raising concerns about the pig meat found in their beef products, but the unexpected horse meat is causing an uproar because of how horses are viewed in modern society.
Have athletes ever used horse meat in their diet to train?
Interestingly, Olympians from Kazakhstan reportedly ordered horse meat sausages to be delivered to the Olympic village for the 2012 London Olympics.
Kazy (horsemeat sausage) and karta (made from a horse's arge intestine) were taken to London to add a taste of home to the diet of the Kazakh team. These items aren't uncommon in the Kazakh diet.
Kazy is a traditional sausage-like food of Kazakhs, Tatars, Kyrgyz, and other ethnic groups mainly of Central Asia, particularly those of Turkic origin. Kazy is a common element on a dastarkhan, a table set for a festive meal.
Should we be expecting a horse meat scandal in the United States?
According to Hallman, it's unlikely.
The United States no longer slaughters or imports horse meat from other countries, a U.S. Department of Agriculture spokesman told ABC News. Additionally, none of the companies or countries that recalled beef in connection to the labeling scandal send beef to the United States.
"The bottom line is that no horse meat is legally being slaughtered for commerce right now in the United States," said Hallman.