Asda storePeter Byrne/PA Wire

The horse meat scandal continues, with news that Asda has cleared its shelves of its own brand beef quarter pounders, beef burgers and 'big eat' burgers. The firm acted after one of its suppliers said it had received a shipment of meat - which it subsequently rejected - which was found to have high levels of horse meat.

The burgers were withdrawn as a precaution, but just what is this scandal costing the UK?


Withdrawn

According to a report in the Daily Mail, the supermarket announced that one of its suppliers, Freeza Meats of Newry, had received a shipment of minced meat from a supplier in southern Ireland back in September.

It put the meat into its cold store, and then decided to reject it. It was subsequently tested by environmental health officers, who found that in a quarter of the samples they took there was evidence of horse meat - some were up to 80% horse meat.

A spokeswoman for the Food Standards Agency told the Telegraph that the contaminated meat was "not released into the food chain at any point."

Precaution

The cold store was found to have done nothing wrong, none of the meat had been used, and safety experts said there was no problem with the burgers on sale. However, Asda decided to withdraw the burgers as a precaution.

Asda said in a statement: "Although all the science says there is no trace of horse in our burgers produced by Freeza Meats, we can't and won't take any chances when it comes to the authenticity of ingredients in our products. As a precaution we have taken all four frozen burger products off sale produced in that factory, and have instructed Freeza Meats to segregate and hold any frozen burgers currently in production or in their supply chain destined for Asda."

Cost

This isn't the first withdrawal Asda has made during this scandal. Two weeks ago it withdrew all the burgers produced by Silvercrest, which was at the centre of the horse meat storm. Traces of horse DNA were found in some Asda burgers, which the firm said at the time was likely to be due to cross-contamination in the Silvercrest factory.

The scandal itself has been very damaging to the burger industry, and particularly to the suppliers involved. There are real doubts that the company at the centre of the scandal will be able to battle on through the total loss in consumer confidence.

For the supermarkets, there was shock and dismay at the news that they had ever been selling horse meat - which meant some took a hit to the share price. Tesco was one of those at the centre of the storm early on, and lost almost 1% off its share price.

Their quick action, profuse apologies and precautionary measures have garnered them a good deal of goodwill. However, it has come at a cost. Over ten million burgers have been withdrawn from shelves around the country, and easily double that number have been pulled from warehouses.

This hasn't just been a PR nightmare, it has been a very expensive one too.