Coveney vows to name firms involved in meat controversy
Any companies involved in the production of beef burgers containing horse meat will be named, Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said this evening.
As the fallout from the controversy continued, Mr Coveney said the investigation into the production of contaminated beef burgers was focusing on imported ingredients.
"As far as I can see to date, there is no linkage between some of the companies that have sold product in...in terms of ownership of companies," he said.
The Minister was replying in the Dáil this afternoon to Sinn Féin agriculture spokesman Martin Ferris, who asked if any of the companies involved were owned by beef baron Larry Goodman. Mr Ferris said it was very important that the companies from the Netherlands and Spain be named.
"Were any of those companies owned by Larry Goodman and were any of the companies that distributed here owned by Larry Goodman?", he added.
A study by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) found the presence of horse DNA in more than a third of the beef burger products it tested.
Products from the Netherlands and Spain added to processed burgers “seem to be the source” of the horse meat contamination, Mr Coveney said today. The burger products were on sale in Tesco, Dunnes Stores, Lidl, Aldi and Iceland. It found pig DNA in 85 per cent of burgers tested.
Of the 27 frozen beef burger products analysed, 10, or 37 per cent, tested positive for horse DNA. The products which tested positive for horse DNA were produced by two Irish plants, Liffey Meats in Cavan and the ABP-owned Silvercrest Foods, and by UK company Dalepak Hambleton, owned by ABP UK.
Speaking in Strasbourg this morning, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the discovery presented “no danger whatsoever to human health”. There was a full investigation going on into how the “imported additives” got into the system, he said. “This is very important for Ireland’s reputation," he said. "We pride ourselves on having world class beef."
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore told the Dail this morning there is no public health risk from the beef burgers containing horse meat. He said the Department of Agriculture and the Food Safety Authority were working closely to identify exactly how the contamination had occurred.
Mr Coveney said this morning that there was “no human food safety issue”. “This is about people eating product and not being aware of the ingredients of that product," he told RTÉ Radio.
Mr Coveney said the supply contract that seemed to be the source of contamination “was no longer there” and burgers being produced at Silvercrest no longer have imported ingredient in them.
“There was no evidence to suggest that Silvercrest knowingly imported ingredient that had horse meat in it, but that may have been the case unknowingly to them,” he said. Silvercrest had recalled 10 million burgers, he said.
FSAI chief executive Prof Alan Reilly said the products identified as containing horse DNA or pig DNA did not pose any food safety risk but still raised concerns. There was a plausible explanation for the presence of pig DNA because meat from different animals was processed in the same meat plants but “there is no clear explanation at this time for the presence of horse DNA in products emanating from meat plants that do not use horse meat in their production process”, he said.
“In Ireland it is not in our culture to eat horse meat and, therefore, we do not expect to find it in a burger. Likewise, for some religious groups or people who abstain from eating pig meat, the presence of traces of pig DNA is unacceptable. We are working with the meat processing plants the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and the Marine to find out how horse DNA could have found its way into these products.”