Should U.S. consumers worry about finding horse meat in their food? Over in Europe, from Ireland to the Netherlands, there's been a horse meat scandal brewing over the last month. The issue has developed into a full-blown crisis, with some pointing to an "international criminal conspiracy to pass off cheap horse meat as more expensive beef." Reports have discovered that everything from plain old horse meat to a potentially deadly equine drug have entered the food chain.
Traces of horse have been discovered in hamburgers and lasagna; yesterday, the Switzerland-based Nestle had to pull a beef pasta item off of shelves throughout the Continent after tests discovered traces of horse DNA in the product. After years of inadequate testing measures, labs all over Europe are now inundated with samples. And it looks like it's only the beginning: British legislator Anne McIntosh recently told Reuters that "more revelations will doubtless come to light in the UK and across the European Union."
Horse slaughtering for human consumption has been legal in America for two years (even though it remains unpopular), so are U.S. chains vulnerable to the kind of mass fraud and deception that caused the European scandal? Burger King in the UK, for example, had to stop buying beef from an Irish supplier implicated in the crisis (according to the chain, it was a precautionary measure and there was no evidence to suggest they had ever served horse meat). To check, Eater reached out to eleven major fast-casual chains in the U.S. to ask whether there's any risk of the problem spreading here. Most of them kindly and promptly obliged. Here, now, the PR arms of eleven chains, including McDonald's, Wendy's, and Applebee's, respond to our query on whether or not they serve horse meat.
Applebee's:"Unequivocally, no. To us, it's just a 'no.' I think it's pretty clear from our perspective: we have no horse meat in our supply chain."
Burger King:"Food quality and safety are a top priority for BURGER KING® restaurants globally. We have stringent and overlapping controls to ensure that the products we sell to our customers meet our strict quality standards. BURGER KING® restaurants in the U.S. do not use products from Silvercrest Foods and are not impacted. Our high quality beef patties are made using 100% beef with no added fillers or bulking agents."
Jack In The Box:"Jack in the Box does not use horse meat. Jack in the Box does not have any international locations. We operate only in the U.S.."
Sonic:"Quality products, friendly service. and clean surroundings are hallmarks of the Sonic brand. Sonic beef patties are prepared from only 100% pure ground beef produced exclusively in USDA inspected plants and meeting all USDA requirements for 100% Ground Beef Patties."
Wendy's:"Wendy's only uses fresh, 100% North American beef in all restaurants throughout North America. We do not use any horse meat."
McDonald's:"McDonald's USA has never used horse meat in our hamburger patties. McDonald's serves 100 percent pure USDA-inspected beef."
Denny's:Reps say Denny's does not operate any restaurants in Europe and that there is no horse meat served in their U.S. outlets.
Whataburger:"Whataburger serves 100 percent pure beef."
Carl's Jr. and Hardee's:"CKE Restaurants, parent company of Carl's Jr. and Hardees: All of our hamburgers are made from 100% inspected beef from USDA approved slaughter and processing facilities. Our charbroiled Black Angus burgers are made with 100% Black Angus beef, which is further graded as such under USDA schedules and standards for Black Angus beef."
Red Robin:"Red Robin uses 100% fresh, never-frozen, USDA-certified, domestically sourced beef in our burgers, and we state this on our website: 'Beef – No preservatives. No antibiotics. No hormones. No Trans fats. To create the highest quality gourmet burgers, we have to be very picky about who supplies our domestically sourced beef. We only buy USDA certified, fresh, never-frozen beef for our burgers. Our standards for selecting the finest quality beef are high, but it takes the very best beef to create the best, most craveable burgers in the business.'"