EU proposes meat testing plan
Describing the developments as “absolutely shocking”, environment secretary Owen Paterson said: “It’s totally unacceptable if any business in the UK is defrauding the public by passing off horse meat as beef. I expect the full force of the law to be brought down on . . . this kind of activity.”
Meanwhile, a Polish veterinary delegation was expected to arrive in Ireland last night to be briefed on the Department of Agriculture’s investigation into how horse meat got into Polish beef product supplied to the Silvercrest and Rangeland plants in Co Monaghan.
The beef product that tested positive for horse DNA came via three different routes but all product was labelled as Polish. The Polish authorities have denied that the horse meat came from its country. The veterinary delegation is expected to spend a couple of days here, examining product and accompanying documentation.
The discovery of horse meat in Findus, Aldi and Tesco products last week turned the issue into a Europe-wide scandal. French company Comigel was involved, meat from Romania was blamed and the products were made in Luxembourg.
In the Northern Ireland Assembly politicians were told the problem of horse meat in products was not “on the radar” in the North until the discoveries were made by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland.
Gerry McCurdy, head of the Northern Ireland Food Standards Agency, said the discoveries had triggered a series of similar checks in the North.
Mr McCurdy told a joint meeting of the Assembly’s agriculture and health committees that 18 European states were now dealing with a probable fraudulent and complex “pan-European” problem of horse meat contamination.
Assembly members were told that meat was being traded across Europe to food processors as a commodity and that the difference in price between horse meat, at £700 a tonne, and beef, at £3,000 a tonne, was a “major” motivation for fraud.
Fianna Fáil spokesman on agriculture Éamon Ó Cuív has called on Mr Coveney to enforce stricter guidelines to curb the illegal horse meat trade in Ireland.
Additional reporting: Reuters