BRUSSELS - Ready-meals labeled as containing beef should be tested across the European Union for the presence of horse meat, according to a plan approved Friday by a team of EU food safety experts.
Tests conducted in Britain, meanwhile, found traces of horse meat in 29 of 2,501 beef products, the Food Standards Agency said.
Across the EU, a total of 2,250 samples of food sold as beef products - between 10 and 150 per member state - should be tested for the presence of unlabeled horse meat, under the proposals drawn up by the European Commission, the bloc's executive.
The EU experts also agreed that horse meat should be tested for possible residues of phenylbutazone, an anti-inflammatory drug that is illegal in animals intended to be eaten.
The previous day, Britain said some horse meat sold to Europe may have contained traces of the drug, commonly known as bute, after traces were found in eight of 206 tested horse carcasses.
The tests are to be carried out in an initial round before the end of March, with results to be published on April 15. They will be co-financed by the commission, although they are not compulsory for member states.
They would be an "important step in restoring consumer confidence," said Irish Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney, whose country currently holds the EU's rotating presidency. Ireland is where the scandal first surfaced last month.
The 29 products that tested positive in Britain all contained more than 1 percent horse meat, the FSA said, adding that 950 more tests were under way. The tainted samples came from supermarket chains Aldi, the Co-op and Tesco, as well as producers Findus and Rangeland.
"In the vast majority of cases, the results so far are showing that no horse DNA is present in the foods tested," said FSA chief Catherine Brown. "But this is still far from the full picture," she added.
In addition to the FSA findings, pub and hotel group Whitbread said their lasagne and beef burgers also had been affected. Meanwhile, meat pies were withdrawn from the menu at schools in the county of Lancashire, after one was found to contain traces of horse.
A dozen countries have been affected by mislabeled horse meat, with supermarket chains in recent weeks withdrawing products after tests revealed they contained up to 100 percent horse meat.
In Austria, health authorities said Friday that horse meat had been found in a product labeled as a beef pasta dish. The "beef tortelloni" were produced by a German company.
Meanwhile, the president of French meat-processing company Spanghero, Barthelemy Aguerre, hit back at the French government over its allegation that the company knew it was supplying horse meat.
On Thursday, Junior Minister for Consumer Products Benoit Hamon accused the company of having knowingly passed off horse meat as beef. The government has suspended the company's license.
Aguerre accused Hamon of jeopardizing the future of the company, which employs 300 people, and he vowed to clear the firm's name.
Spanghero's mislabeled meat had made it into about 4.5 million ready-meals made by French manufacturer Comigel, investigators said. These had then been distributed to at least 28 companies in 13 European countries.