Burger King Horse Meat Controversy Explained

The Burger King horse meat controversy happened in 2013. It not only left everyone questioning the safety measures followed by Burger King, but it also tarnished Burger King’s image. So, let’s find out more about it.  

Burger King

The Burger King horse meat controversy began when traces of horse meat were discovered in some beef products. A European fast-food retail chain, Silvercrest, supplied the beef. Burger King was found guilty of the charge.

But this isn’t the only food controversy in which Burger King got entangled. The company has faced criticism for selling unhealthy food items and cross-contamination. 

Burger King’s history shows how the brand has worked hard to make a name for itself. However, controversies like these impact the brand’s image. But for now, let’s look at the brand’s reaction to the horse meat controversy and what precautions were taken. 

What Was Burger King’s Horse Meat Controversy?

Burger King restaurant

Burger King’s horse meat controversy began when traces of horse meat were found in the products sold by Burger King’s supplier, Silvercrest Foods. These products were found in the United Kingdom and Ireland region only.

Burger King’s horse meat controversy started in 2013 due to a more extensive food scandal. The Food Safety Authority of Ireland tested a range of frozen beef burgers and ready meals from supermarkets. As a result, they found horse DNA in over one-third of the beef burger samples.

The survey identified three factories that were contaminated with horse meat. Silvercrest Foods, a subsidiary of ABP Food Group, is one of them and is a supplier of Burger King. 

The ABP group confirmed that horsemeat entered their chain through suppliers in Poland when blocks of frozen meat contained 80% horse meat at a cold store in Northern Ireland. 

Burger King is famous for selling products made with 100% beef patties. While no horse meat was found in Burger King’s beef patties, the controversy impacted the brand’s reputation in Europe as it contradicted its purity claims. 

That’s because people were still determining whether Burger King tried to hide the horse meat claims until it proved otherwise. Thus, a thorough investigation was held in the UK as the finding of horse meat in beef products aroused worries about food safety, labeling accuracy, and supply chain management. 

Afterward, Burger King and other companies affected by this scandal immediately addressed the issue. However, it’s important to note that this controversy primarily affected Burger King in the UK and Ireland.

Following the controversy, Burger King acted to rectify the situation and regain consumer trust. However, the controversy impacted Burger King differently in other regions or countries.

Did Burger King Have Horse Meat In Their Menu Items?

Burger King

No, the products sampled from Burger King restaurants didn’t have horse meat. However, when their supplier’s products, Silvercrest, were checked, horse meat DNA was found in the supplier’s products. 

According to a 2013 Burger King press release, Silvercrest Foods, which ABP Food Group owned then, had imported the contaminated beef from an unapproved supplier in Poland. After that, Burger King announced that it had stopped purchasing beef from Silvercrest Foods as a “voluntary and precautionary measure.” 

To make the point clear that their products contained no horse meat, Burger King, on their part, also issued another press release. It stated, “Our independent DNA test results on products taken from BURGER KING® restaurants were negative for any equine DNA,” the company said in that press release

“However, four samples recently taken from the Silvercrest plant have shown minimal trace levels of equine DNA. This product was never sold to our restaurants.”

What Was Burger King’s Reaction To This Controversy?

Burger King

Although Burger King’s test results showed no presence of horse meat in their products, they stopped working with Silvercrest Foods. This measure was taken as a precautionary step.

According to The Guardian, the fast-food giant claimed that Silvercrest had “assured” them that the meat they sold was not contaminated and that there was “no health danger to consumers.” 

“Our independent DNA test results on products taken from restaurants were negative for any equine DNA. However, four samples recently taken from the Silvercrest plant have shown minimal trace levels of equine DNA,” Burger King said. 

“Within the last 36 hours, we have established that Silvercrest used a small percentage of beef imported from a non-approved supplier in Poland. They promised to deliver 100% British and Irish beef patties and have not done so. This is a clear violation of our specifications, and we have terminated our relationship with them,” they added. 

In response to the scandal, Diego Beamonte, vice president for global quality at Burger King, apologized to customers. He said the company was “deeply troubled by the findings of our investigation and apologized to our guests, who trust us to source only the highest quality 100% beef burgers. Our supplier has failed us, and in turn, we have failed you”.

What Precautions Did Burger King Take Afterwards?

Burger King

In response to the horse meat findings, Burger King stopped working with Silvercrest. They moved their operations from Ireland to Germany and Italy. 

However, they also took significant measures to ensure no such mistake arises in the future. Thus, Burger King investigated their supply chains and took action to ensure that their products met their stated quality and labeling standards. 

This practice is still carried out via regular audits to ensure quality and safety standards compliance. Moreover, they have also put more stringent quality control methods in place. Thus, the suppliers are expected to adhere to food safety, animal welfare, and sustainability guidelines. Moreover, they have to be GFSI certified. 

Additionally, for quality checks, Burger King has established food safety protocols. They ensure that meat is handled, stored, and prepared in a manner that minimizes the risk of contamination. 

Thus, Burger King trains its employees in food handling and preparation. Furthermore, they have also become participants in food safety organizations such as the Beef Industry Food Safety Council, National Chicken Council, and Baking Association.

Burger King is committed to giving consumers more detailed information about its food items. Hence, they are transparent about the sourcing and quality of their ingredients. All this information is available on the RBI website

How Was Burger King Affected By This Controversy?

Burger King

Burger King’s horse meat controversy significantly affected brand sales and reputation. It also eroded customer confidence in the fast-food chain. 

The horse meat controversy is among the most significant controversies in the fast-food industry. Thus, it affected Burger King at various levels. Let’s quickly take a look at them. 

  1. Damage to the Brand’s Reputation: The revelation of horse meat in some beef products led to negative publicity. It not only damaged the brand’s reputation in the affected region, but it also had an impact on the trust of customers the world over. 
  2. Loss of Confidence: Unsurprisingly, such an incident will lead to losing trust and confidence in a brand’s commitment to its products. Thus, customers were reluctant to dine at Burger King in Europe and other countries. 
  3. Product Shortages: With the suspension of its contract with its leading supplier, Burger King faced a shortage of certain menu items made of beef. The problem was only resolved when they made new ties with new suppliers. 
  4. Impact on Sale: Customers lost their trust in Burger King and faced product shortages when a new supplier was found, so the company’s sales went down. Customers preferred other brands in its place. 
  5. Rebuilding Trust: Due to the mishap, Burger King had to rebuild customer trust in its commitment to food safety and quality. 

Thus, the horse meat controversy impacted the brand in many ways. However, they took steps to address the issue, regain consumer trust, and improve their supply chain practices to prevent such incidents.

What Was The Reaction Of Burger King Customers?

Burger King

Many people were outraged after the Burger King horse meat controversy made headlines. People lost trust in the brand, and angry customers said they would never eat at Burger King again.

A 10-year-old Guardian coverage reveals customers’ reactions right after the controversy broke. Let’s take a look at them. 

A customer, Emilie Ashen, expressed concern at the Burger King outlet on London’s Euston Road: “It grosses me out. I don’t want to be eating horse meat if I’m not told about it – I don’t think I’d want to eat horse meat even if I was told about it, to be honest.”

Kashyap Raja said: “I prefer to have what I’ve ordered in my burger. I usually only buy chicken from Burger King. Chicken is chicken; you know what you are getting. Not so much with burgers.” 

Talking from a vegetarian perspective, Amit Bhadd added: “I’d be worried if there were meat traces found in something that was supposed to be vegetarian.”

 A French tourist said: “I am French; we eat horse meat in France, so I don’t really mind. But it is still a little strange.”

People on social media also called out Burger King for this mistake. Here are some views shared by Burger King customers on Twitter.

@ZCITTYYY wrote: “There needs to be a restaurant that makes healthier versions of fast food meals because I’m not about to eat that horse meat Burger King sells.”

 @zmama891 wrote: “Burger King…..that is not good!!!!!!! Don’t think I will be having a Whopper for a very long time….. here’s to homemade burgers”. 

Likewise, @Cresean wrote: “Never have to worry about me eating there EVER again!”. @holssdavies wrote: “Horse meat in Burger King burgers. Can never eat a whopper again.”

Angry customers also expressed their sentiments on Burger King’s Facebook page. One user wrote: “How does everyone feel about those burgers and the fact that you are also feeding them to your children.” Another commented: “I will NEVER eat in any of your “restaurants” again. FOR SHAME.”

Did Burger King In the USA Get Contaminated?

Burger King

No, Burger King USA did not get contaminated with horse meat. This controversy only affected the European region because of the negligence of a single Burger King supplier, Silvercrest.

Burger King USA’s menu remained untouched by the effects of the horse meat controversy, as Silvercrest was not their supplier. Burger King USA sources beef from Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, and its suppliers in the United States.

Were Any Other Food Companies Affected By The Same Problem?

Taco Bell

Apart from Burger King, other popular brands are also affected by the same problem. The names include famous food giants Taco Bell, Tesco, Findus, Aldi, Ikea, Nestle, Asda, Sodexo, and The Co-operative.

  1. Taco Bell: Taco Bell, a subsidiary of Yum Brands, found horse meat in its products. As a result, they withdrew all the products that contained horse meat from three outlets in the UK. 
  2. Tesco: One of the UK’s leading grocery chains, Tesco, had several beef products implicated in the incident. Because of the issue, they significantly modified their sourcing and quality control methods.
  3. Ikea: The scandal impacted Ikea, famous for its Swedish meatballs. Traces of horse meat were discovered in the company’s meatballs, prompting product recalls and investigations.
  4. Findus: The frozen food company Findus, which makes ready-to-eat meals, needed help with several of its beef lasagna items, which were discovered to include horse meat.
  5. Aldi: In the United Kingdom and Ireland, the bargain grocery retailer Aldi discovered horse meat in several of their beef items.
  6. Asda: The UK grocery chain Asda had some meat products involved in the controversy.
  7. Sodexo: Sodexo, a food service and facilities management company providing services to universities, had some beef products implicated in the controversy.
  8. Nestlé: While primarily a food and beverage corporation, Nestlé had certain beef pasta items in the UK and other European markets that contained horse meat.
  9. Co-op: The Co-operative, a British retail and wholesale business, was also impacted by the scandal, which resulted in modifications to its supply chain practices.


The Burger King horse meat controversy significantly impacted the brand’s reputation and business. It also raised consumer concerns about the transparency of the food supply chain, food safety, and the accuracy of product labeling in Europe.  

However, Burger King has faced other troubles. Due to decreased sales, Burger King has also been closing its restaurants. Which makes many wonder whether Burger King is going out of business

It may be because Burger King food is expensive. However, Burger King isn’t the only fast-food chain at the receiving end of such a controversy. McDonald’s food has also been called highly toxic. This controversy started when Jamie Oliver proved that McDonald’s Burgers are unfit for human consumption.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Did Burger King apologize after the horse meat controversy?

Yes, Burger King apologized after traces of horse meat were found in its supplier’s products.

Did the Burger King horse meat controversy affect the sales?

Yes, the Burger King horse meat controversy affected Burger King’s sales. Customers lost trust in the fast food chain.

What action did Burger King take after the horse meat scandal was revealed?

Burger King stopped working with its supplier Silvercrest Foods, whose products were contaminated with horse meat.

What meat does Burger King use?

Burger King uses chicken, fish, and beef in its USA outlets.

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