Accusations that horse meat unfit for human consumption is being sold illegally to the general public as food has sparked an investigation in New Zealand.

An investigation by undercover TV show has forced New Zealand’s Food Safety Authority to act after the Tuakau Pet Food Abattoir was found selling horse meat for people to eat.

The large Tongan community in Auckland are the main buyers, said Melino Maka, the chairman of the Tongan Advisory Council.

“Some members of the Tongan community do eat horse,” said Mr Maka.

“A lot of people claim it’s a delicacy. The meat is pre-cooked, shredded and then cooked again with coconut oil.”

The dish, known as Loi Hoosi, can be bought in South Auckland markets for £2 a serving.

The actor in the TV expose bought 6kg of horse meat from the abattoir for £8.50. He was told it was freshly killed that morning.

Mr Maka estimated that up to 10,000 Tongans, about 20 per cent of the community in New Zealand, ate horse meat labelled as unfit for human consumption, as none was available labelled fit for human consumption.

Geoff Allen of the New Zealand Food Safety Authority, said pet food is made to different standards and while humans may be able to eat it, there is a greater risk of poisoning.

He said: “The way the abattoir was promoting the horse meat as fit for human consumption makes the deception a breach of the Animal Products Act.”

Fines for a company breaching the act are up to £200,000.