Essential department quickly identifies source of equine DNA in tests, says IFA

Fri, Jan 18, 2013, 00:00

The Irish Farmers Association said last night it was essential that the Department of Agriculture quickly identify the precise source of the equine DNA found in further beef burgers manufactured at a Monaghan plant.

Its president, John Bryan, was commenting after the Department of Agriculture confirmed that nine out of 13 samples of finished burgers at Silvercrest Foods tested positive for the presence of equine DNA. It also confirmed seven samples of raw ingredients were tested, one of which, sourced from another EU state, tested positive.

All ingredients in the production of burgers sourced from Irish suppliers tested negative for equine DNA.

Mr Byran said farmers are disappointed that the Department of Agriculture has not yet brought the issue to a definitive conclusion.

“It is critically important that this is brought to a swift end to maintain the high reputation of Irish food production.”

But he said it was reassuring that all of the tests conducted on samples of ingredients from Irish suppliers came up clear.

He said the results of other tests conducted by the department would indicate that the source of the problem appears to be from imported product.

The IFA president said it was essential that the Department of Agriculture quickly identify the precise source of the equine DNA, and who was responsible for this product ending up in Irish burgers.

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney ordered the new tests to see if the horse meat content was a one-off event or an ongoing issue for the Monaghan plant, owned by the ABP Food Group, after earlier results of a Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) study found one burger produced at the plant contained 29 per cent horse DNA.

The food group this week expressed its shock at the finding and said it was at a loss to explain it. ABP also said it would introduce a new testing regime which would include DNA analysis.

In Britain, the Food Standards Agency has been criticised for not carrying out the type of DNA analysis carried out here by the FSAI that revealed the presence of horse meat.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio’s News at One yesterday, one of its directors, Steve Wearne, said the test used by the FSAI was “a relatively novel one . . . so this will be another tool in our armoury for the future”.

Tim Lang, a professor of food policy at City University in London, said the addition of horse meat to burgers could have been going on for years “but we wouldn’t know about it because we have never conducted tests”.

Prof Mike Gibney of UCD’s institute of food and health said the addition of horse meat to burgers should not have happened but the issue had been handled “brilliantly” by the FSAI. “This is protection working and it’s not being discovered by someone outside Ireland. It’s been discovered inside Ireland.”

Officials from the FSAI and the Department of Agriculture have been asked to appear before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture next week to discuss the controversy.

Committee chairman Andrew Doyle said while there was not a health risk from the processed meat, the committee was very concerned about the findings of the Food Safety Authority’s study.