Firm focuses on imported meat products

Mon, Jan 21, 2013, 00:00

Imported ingredients are still at the centre of investigations into the presence of horse meat in beef burgers produced by the ABP Food Group, the company said yesterday.

Weekend newspaper reports suggested that the ABP-owned Silvercrest Foods did not use imported ingredients in the burger produced for Tesco which was found to contain 29 per cent horse DNA relative to meat content.

But yesterday an ABP Food Group spokeswoman said imported ingredients were still the suspected cause of the contamination. “The company is investigating all possible sources of horse DNA contamination. At this stage the investigations remain centred on third-party ingredient suppliers from the continent,” she said.

Production suspended

“ABP Food Group has never knowingly bought or processed horse meat and the company is still shocked by a finding of 29 per cent equine DNA in one burger sampled in the FSAI survey.”

On Thursday night ABP Food Group temporarily suspended production at Silvercrest Foods following test results which showed that burgers made at the plant last week still contained horse DNA. The original tests which found the 29 per cent horse DNA content were taken in November and December.

Last week’s tests found that nine out of 13 burgers from the plant tested positive for traces of horse meat. Seven samples of raw ingredients were also tested and one of those, sourced from another EU member state, tested positive. All ingredients in the production of burgers sourced from Irish suppliers tested negative for horse DNA.

The exact amount of horse DNA found in the burgers will be known this week when results from tests being carried out in Germany are ready. Results are also expected from samples taken at Liffey Meats in Ballyjamesduff. This plant also produced burgers with horse DNA but traces were much lower, at less than 0.1 per cent of meat content.

Fianna Fáil spokesman on agriculture Éamon Ó Cuív has called on Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney to convene a special meeting of EU agriculture ministers to address the crisis. He said Mr Coveney could do this in his role as president of the council of European agriculture ministers.

“We need to find out if other countries have been exposed in the same way Ireland and the UK have been,” Mr Ó Cuív said. “It is inevitable that the meat products sold to Ireland were sold on to other burger manufacturers in other countries in the EU.”

A spokeswoman for Mr Coveney said the Minister believed calling such a meeting would be a premature move, as investigations were still ongoing.

Meeting postponed

Tomorrow’s meeting of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine, which was to consider the beef burger controversy, has been postponed until the investigations are complete.

The committee had asked for a briefing from officials from the Food Safety Authority of Ireland and the Department of Agriculture. It said it had since been informed that Mr Coveney and/or his officials would be available to discuss the issues in a thorough fashion once the appropriate investigations were complete.

Meanwhile, the Organic Trust said the controversy must focus people’s minds on the cost of cheap food.

Its spokesman Gavin Lynch said people must ask themselves how burgers could be sold for €3 per kilo when factory prices for genuine beef were €4 per kilo.

“How do you produce a twin pack of chickens for €6 when the feed for one organic chicken costs almost as much?” he said. “What are the practices and processes that bypass nature to achieve these prices?”