Tests for horsemeat contamination have been stepped up again as the House of Commons catering outlets were dragged into the growing scandal.

As the Food Standards Agency widened its probe, the parliamentary authorities admitted four beef products had been withdrawn from the heavily subsidised eateries used by MPs, peers and staff.

parliament horse meat

The removal of some beef products from Parliament was described as a 'precautionary measure'

A Commons spokesman said the products withdrawn were steak and kidney pie, beef and onion pie, steak and kidney suet pudding, and beef Italian meatballs.

He added the move was "precautionary" after one of the House's suppliers, Brakes, announced it was carrying out tests.

"As a precautionary measure, the House of Commons Catering Service has removed from its shelves four beef items supplied by Brakes.

"This relates to meat derivative products rather than to fresh meat provided at the House of Commons."

The spokesman said tests on two of the four items had so far concluded negative for equine DNA.

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"The House of Commons Catering Service has followed all FSA advice and taken all necessary precautions and identified all products that contain beef.

"We will continue to be vigilant and, in line with FSA guidance, should we not be absolutely satisfied with the guarantees offered by suppliers we will undertake the necessary investigations and tests to give our customers the level of assurance demanded."

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The news emerged shortly after the FSA said a wider range of products would be checked, include cafe sandwiches, gelatine, stock cubes and other beef-based foods sold pre-packed or loose.

The third phase of testing, due to begin next week, will see a further 150 samples examined for traces of horse DNA, increasing the total products checked to 514 products.

The first phase saw 224 samples of minced beef products including burgers, minced beef, beef sausage or meat balls checked for horse and pork DNA, while the second, which started last Thursday involves 140 samples of beef-based ready meals including frozen, chilled or canned lasagne, chilli con carne, cottage pie, ravioli, cannelloni and spaghetti bolognese being checked for horse and pork DNA.

The sampling for the first two phases is being carried out by 28 local authorities while sampling for the third phase will be allocated to other local authorities across the UK.

The FSA expects to start publishing the results from all three phases of the study by the end of the month.

Earlier, the world's biggest food company Nestle confirmed that three of its products were recalled in France, Italy and Spain. They had not been on sale in the UK.

The company said in a statement on its website that it had enhanced its own testing after reports first emerged about the fraudulent mislabelling of beef.