The Swiss food giant has voluntarily removed two chilled pasta products, Buitoni Beef Ravioli and Beef Tortellini from sale in Italy and Spain.
Nestle said its own tests found traces of horse DNA in the two products made from beef supplied by a German firm, HJ Schypke, a subcontractor of one of its suppliers, JBS Toledo. It said the levels found were above the 1% threshold used by the Food Standards Agency to indicate "likely adulteration or gross negligence."
The company has suspended deliveries of all its finished products made with beef supplied by HJ Schypke. It has also withdrawn a frozen lasagne produced by Nestlé Professional in France for catering businesses.
Nestle said it would replace the removed items with products confirmed by DNA testing to be "made from 100% beef."
In a statement the company stressed there were no food safety issues, but said the mislabelling of products means they "fail to meet the very high standards consumers expect from us."
Nestle, which had initially said it was not affected by the scandal, said it was introducing new tests on beef for horse DNA prior to production in Europe.
“Assuring the quality and safety of our products has always been a top priority for Nestlé. We want to apologise to consumers and reassure them that the actions being taken to deal with this issue will result in higher standards and enhanced traceablity,” the statement said.
Nestle becomes the latest company to be drawn into the crisis that initially centred on value frozen burgers sold by Tesco but has since grown to draw in other major retailers and food giants like Findus, Compass and the Whitbread chain.
Numerous local councils across the U.K. have withdrawn beef products from school and hospital menus amid concerns about contamination.
Defra Secretary Owen Paterson met representatives of retailers, manufacturers, wholesalers and trade associations on Monday to discuss the response to the crisis.
After the FSA published the first wave of DNA test results on beef products last Friday, the food businesses agreed to report back as many testing results as possible to the FSA by Friday, February 22. There will be a further update to be published on Friday, March1, and, after that, updates every three months
Paterson said the businesses had assured him they will not rest until they have established the full picture.
“This was a most constructive meeting, with a real sense of commitment from everyone that all food businesses, from throughout the industry, are determined to work together to rebuild the certainty and trust consumers deserve,” he said.
“There is still much to be done to find out exactly how this happened and how it can be prevented from happening again, and to do everything possible to reassure consumers about the food on our shelves.”
British Retail Consortium director general Helen Dickinson stressed that retailers were taking their responsibilities very seriously and were doing "everything they can to maintain consumer confidence and increase surveillance."
She acknowledged it was clear "things will need to change for the future as a result of these incidents."
She said, “Retailers are scrutinising their systems and processes, alongside intelligence gathering and sharing to identify practical improvements that will turn the lessons learned into action.”