FG MEP calls for EU-wide meat inquiry

Thu, Jan 17, 2013, 00:00

AN EU-wide investigation into the presence of horse meat in burgers was called for by Fine Gael MEP Mairéad McGuinness yesterday as the story of contaminated beef burgers continued to make headlines around the world.

Ms McGuinness wrote to EU health commissioner Tonio Borg asking him to investigate if the findings might indicate an EU-wide problem.

She also asked him to clarify the rules determining when a beef burger could be called a beef burger.

Silvercrest Foods said it was changing its testing regime as a result of the Food Safety Authority study, which showed one of its burgers contained horse DNA of 29 per cent, relative to beef content.

Safety checks

In a statement, the ABP Group, which owns the company, said while it had extensive and thorough safety checks, “the industry does not routinely DNA test meat products for species. As a result of this incident we are implementing a new testing regime for meat products which will include DNA analysis”.

It also said: “We are shocked by the result of these tests, and are currently at a loss to explain why one test showed 29 per cent equine DNA.” Its companies only bought meat from licensed and approved EU suppliers.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland yesterday, ABP Food Group’s chief executive Paul Finnerty said everything that went into its burgers, other than ingredients such as onions and rusks, was beef-based product. He believed a lean beef raw material was the source of the contamination. This product, which helps bind the meat together, is not available in this State, according to the company. “What we understood we were buying was not what was actually received,” Mr Finnerty said. “We’ve been working around the clock going back through our traceability system as to where the raw materials in the particular batch have come from and that’s identified two suppliers in particular and we are engaged in a number of tests at the moment on that product.”

Yesterday his company sent auditors to the two suppliers’ sites to conduct unannounced spot checks. Its own DNA test results on a wide number of samples are expected in the coming days.

Mr Finnerty said the company had taken the “maximum response” with the withdrawal of some 10 million burgers.

Withdrawn burgers

Asked what would happen to the withdrawn burgers, a spokeswoman said “no decision has yet been taken with regard to the handling of the burgers following withdrawal”.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) began testing burgers for the presence of horse and pig DNA in November, but the final results only emerged in recent days, it said yesterday, as questions arose about the time lag between the testing of samples and the results.

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said it was important to have the full facts before informing the public of the test results. There was no food safety issue involved and it was important that the findings were correct before the public was informed.

The first samples were purchased in early to mid-November 2012 and delivered to the testing laboratory within a few days. The results were received by FSAI at the end of November.

Further specific burger samples were bought in mid-December and results were received by FSAI soon after.

At this time, portions of the original samples were sent to Germany for confirmatory tests in late December. These results were received by the FSAI late on Friday evening.


First sample burgers tested mid-November.

First results received by FSAI at end of November.

More samples purchased mid-December.

Results received in mid-late December.

Further tests carried out in Germany in late December.

Results received by the FSAI last Friday.

Minister Simon Coveney notified on Monday and processing plants informed of results.

Cabinet briefed on Tuesday and study published.