DNA testing for all meat products
Lasagne meals and burgers suspected of containing horse meat have been removed from supermarket shelves in Ireland, Britain, Sweden and France.
Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said this evening he would be asking Irish manufacturers of processed meat products to carry out DNA testing and to work with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) in developing testing protocols for this purpose.
The Minister said the move was a “necessary step in order to provide further reassurance to Irish consumers and consumers of Irish food abroad”.
The announcement comes shortly after Tesco revealed that its frozen Everyday Value Spaghetti Bolognese contained horse DNA of more than 60 per cent in some samples.
The product was supposed to only contain Irish beef. Tesco withdrew it from sale as a precaution last week because it was made in the French Comigel factory which had produced Findus beef lasagne which was found to contain up to 100 per cent horsemeat.
Tesco group technical director Tim Smith said most of the test results found horse DNA at a trace level of less than one per cent “but three showed significant levels of horse DNA, exceeding 60 per cent”.
“The source of the horsemeat is still under investigation by the relevant authorities. The level of contamination suggests that Comigel was not following the appropriate production process for our Tesco product and we will not take food from their facility again,” Mr Smith said.
The samples did not show the presence of bute, a potentially harmful veterinary medicine.
Mr Smith said Tesco was “very sorry” that it had let customers down. “Our DNA testing programme is underway and will give us and our customers assurance that the product they buy is what it should be."
Mr Coveney and Britain’s environment secretary Owen Paterson have agreed that the FSAI and the UK Food Standards Agency will work together to protect the authenticity of meat ingredients used in the manufacture of meat based products.
The Minister will meet the EU commissioner for health and consumer policy Tonio Borg in Brussels on Wednesday to consider the implications of the recent horsemeat controversy, and what steps can be taken to address the matter at an EU level.
The Minister has also arranged to have the issue on the agenda for the next Council of Agriculture Ministers later this month.
A Polish veterinary delegation will visit Ireland this week to be briefed on the Irish investigation into the discovery of horsemeat in beef products, following a meeting between Mr Coveney and his Polish counterpart in Brussels last Thursday.
Romania’s prime minister Victor Ponta has said any fraud over horse meat sold as beef had not happened in his country and he was angered by suggestions it might have been.
The British unit of frozen foods group Findus began recalling its beef lasagne last week on advice from its French supplier, Comigel, which said the horse meat came from Romania.