Environment secretary Owen Paterson has vowed that those responsible for the horse meat scandal will feel the “full force of the law”.

Paterson told the National Farmers’ Union annual conference in Birmingham today that consumers buying processed beef containing horse meat is “totally unacceptable”.

He said he has demanded EU officials speed up a report into country of origin labeling after meeting with the European Agriculture Council on Monday.

Paterson told the audience of farmers that British food should be recognised for its “rigorous traceability and standards” and that domestic producers “must not be tarnished as a result of the fraudulent activities of criminals”.

He said: “The substitution of beef with horse meat in a number of products has shaken consumer confidence. It is totally unacceptable that anyone should buy something labelled beef and end up with horsemeat. That is fraud.

“I am determined that this criminal activity should be stopped and that anyone who has defrauded the customer must feel the full force of the law.”

Tesco chief executive Philip Clarke, who also addressed the conference today, has vowed to increase the amount of British meat the UK’s largest retailer sells.

  • Ikea has withdrawn wiener sausages from sale in the UK, France, Spain and Portugal as an “extra precautionary measure” today as they were made by the same supplier which supplied meatballs containing horse meat.